Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
For the first 12-plus minutes of the match, the undefeated Lakewood girls soccer team had visiting Bay on the ropes. The Rangers' offense was controlling the ball and putting pressure on the young Rocket defense.
And when junior forward Mallory Shaw was fouled in the box, her ensuing penalty kick had the home team sporting an early 1-0 lead.
But less than eight minutes later, Bay's speed up front struck like lightning. The Rockets scored a pair of quick-strike goals in the first half and tacked on another early in the second in a 4-2 West Shore Conference win Wednesday night at First Federal Lakewood Stadium.
It was the first win of the season for Bay, which had previously lost to Westlake and Columbus DeSales. They were staring loss No. 3 in the face last Wednesday before rallying late for a 2-2 tie with arch rival Rocky River.
"We really didn't show it in the first two and a half games, but offensively, we're going to score goals," said Bay head coach Jack Griffiths, whose team moved to 1-2-1 on the season and 1-0-1 in the WSC..
"Defensively, we're young. Right now, we're more worried about our back line and our goal keeping, but they've kept us in games this year. On offense, we have some speed up front and in the midfield. I think we're going to be attacking more like you saw today," he said.
And attack they did.
Shaw's penalty kick came with 4:48 gone off the clock as the Rangers captured some momentum early. But at the 27:24 mark, Bay answered. Senior captain Nicole Pohlkamp, playing the ball on the right side, directed the ball across the field to wide-open Autumn Meisenburg.
The freshman forward turned on the jets and zipped the ball past Lakewood's senior keeper, Laura Sharkin, before the Ranger defense could recover.
Then with 20:46 left in the half, Pohlhamp advanced the ball to junior midfielder Ana Crites, who outran the Rangers for the Rockets' go-ahead goal.
"This is the fastest team we've had, absolutely," Griffiths said. "We've had a lot of summer league games and scrimmages, and we're really pushing the goals on the offensive side.
"But again, just like tonight and in most of our games and scrimmages, we're giving away early goals and putting ourselves down. We always have to fight our way back," he said.
Lakewood head coach Vlad Godosev admitted Bay's quicker attack made a difference.
"You look at it across the board," he said. "You could say 'if our defense would have stepped up quicker,' or 'if we would have pressured the midfield and won the ball,' or 'if our keeper would have come out.'
"But the way I look at it, they just exploited a quick gap or a quick mental lapse in our defense, probably in our midfield. Unfortunately, that's what kind of cost us there. But that's all part of the game. It's all part of learning.
"We came into this game 4-0, but we hadn't found a team yet that could exploit something that quickly or play as direct. This is the first time I've seen Bay drop in deeper so they can look for those counter attacks and long balls. They caught us off guard," he said.
Down 2-1, Lakewood continued to apply pressure in the Bay third. A breakaway attempt was stopped by Bay junior keeper Alexa Carras in the 28th minute, and a nice crossing shot by Shaw went all the way through the box two minutes later. In the 33rd minute, another breakaway attempt by Shaw sailed over the crossbar.
The Rangers put more pressure on the Rockets to start the second half, but it was Bay that found the back of the net.
The ball was sent into the box from the right. Sophomore midfielder Maddie Holmes tapped the ball to her rig to an open Dakota Meisenburg, and the senior zipped it to Sharkin's left for a 3-1 lead with 34:47 left in the game.
Meisenburg got another second-half goal with 16:30 remaining off a crossing pass from Crites. Lakewood finally got back on the board in the 73rd minute when sophomore Halle Krebs knocked one in off a pass from Shaw.
Godosev admitted the Rockets' third goal stung his young squad.
"It didn't deflate us, but your could still see a little bit of the old Lakewood where it was like "oh my god, what do we do' type of deal," he said. "We're young, and we're still trying to learn this game.
"If they wouldn't have got those two goals early, I think we could have kept hanging in there. But they put so much pressure on us," he said. "I think at that point our girls were just ruing to figure it out. What's going on, how to we fix this problem.
"Meanwhile, Bay just kept pounding so much at us, and that's how they got that third goal. It happens," he added.
Carras had four saves for the Rockets, while Sharkin recorded three and fellow senior Katie Ribar four. Sharkin, who was injured the first half, returned in the second half. Ribar re-entered the match midway through the half and allowed Meisenburg's second goal.
"For the first 10 to 15 minutes, they caught us a bit off guard," Griffiths said. "This is the best Lakewood team, I think, we've faced. They've got speed, and they've got some strength. I think Vlad's doing a really nice job building a program."
Griffiths went on to say how important getting that first win was for his youthful Rockets.
"If we have lost that game to Rocky River, it would have been crushing, admitted Griffiths, whose team travels to Hathaway Brown Saturday night. "We fought back and tied that game, then came in here and got a win.
"Our schedule gets a little easier, but overall we have one of the toughest schedules in Ohio. We don't get a lot of breaks, so it's nice to be able to get a win and get some playing time for our bench," he added.
For Lakewood, now 1-1-0 in the WSC, it's back to work and learning from the loss, according to Godosev.
"We're going to adapt a lot more as the season moves along," he said.
"Again, I took a lot of points from this. If Bay is one of the top teams we play against in the West Shore this year, this is going to be the biggest learning tool we could have early on in the season. If this game would have been more toward the middle or end of the season, it may have been harder to come back from.
"But with it being just our second conference game, we have a long way to go. And, I think we've learned a lot," he added.
The Rangers will host St. Joseph Academy Saturday at 11 a.m.
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