July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Girls soccer: Defense, Schniegenberg’s playmaking lead Hornets

GRANGER TWP. — In one of the biggest games of the young season Saturday afternoon, Highland’s girls soccer team responded.

Facing undefeated Louisville, the Hornets put away chances and stung together a defensive effort that helped them hold on for a 3-2 non-conference victory.

Highland’s Anna Rose Wiencek slides as she kicks the ball during the first half. (AARON JOSEFCZYK / GAZETTE)

A set-play goal from Amanda Schniegenberg was the difference as Highland (5-2-1) overcame a pair of second-half goals from standout forward Rachel Baughman to hand the Leopards (8-1) their first loss of the season.

“The pieces are there, and it’s nice when they get put all together. It feels good,” Hornets coach Gina Fox said. “Obviously, you wish you could have the shutout at the end, but they’re a very nice team.

“Overall, I feel we had some nice possession and we were able to create in the attack and get some opportunities on goal.”

Highland showed that in the opening minutes, when McKenzie Koch took three dribbles down the far sideline before blasting a try in the upper 90 over the shoulder of goalkeeper Becca Springman.

A combined effort defensively helped create a host of chances. Players like Julianne Zeleznik, Elayna Yuschak and Samantha Sube were there to bother Baughman and, for the first 55 minutes, the strategy worked. The all-district striker, who holds numerous school scoring records, was limited to just three shots — one of which was on goal.

“We had a couple different girls man-marking her, and I thought they did pretty well,” Schniegenberg said. “She’s a very tactical player and we did the best we could.”

That changed midway through the second half, as Baughman found room when she worked across the top of the box to her left and tied the game.

After goals from Elle Cain and Schniegenberg, Baughman struck again with 5:38 left after fighting off three different Hornets to squeeze in a shot.

Highland responded, holding the Leopards to just one attempt on frame the rest of the way — a try by Sami Keefe that was easily stopped by goalie Madison Less (2 saves).

“We decided to go with a man-mark on her and adjust our formation, and I think the girls did a really good job to adjust their organization in the back because that’s something we don’t normally do,” Fox said. “She’s a dangerous player, obviously, and she still got two away on us tonight, but I think we did a decent job at containing her.”

Baughman’s first score was followed 29 seconds later by Schniegenberg crossing the ball to a streaking Elle Cain in the center of the box, and Cain deflected the ball in. The goal was just one highlight for the midfielder, who played her first full game since returning from a concession.

“It’s nice to be back,” Cain said, “It’s been tough and I had to deal with headaches and missing school. I always want to play, and it’s nice to be back in the game.”

Schniegenberg netted what at the time was a key insurance goal a little more than 10 minutes later, as Koch’s indirect kick from the right side of the box hung in the air just enough for the senior forward to put a head it past Springman.

It was one of five shots for Schniegenberg — two of which were on goal — but it proved to be the biggest of the season.

“That felt pretty awesome,” Schniegenberg said. “You can’t make every shot, so I relied on my teammates to get the game going. We practice a lot for our headers off of set pieces.”

Contact Dan Brown at sports@medina-gazette.com.