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Lady Spartans win in Williamsburg, lose on senior night to South Tama

Lady Spartan senior Brianna Smith exchanges elbows for the advantage and possession of the ball as the Lady Spartans battled the Raiders in Williamsburg on Tuesday, May 15. A late, second-half score by Brianna Smith, assist by Sylvia Havlicek, elevated the Lady Spartans to a 2-1 victory. (photos by Jeff Hess)

SOLON– The Lady Spartans started their week by mending their winning ways in Williamsburg on Tuesday, May 15, with an offensively aggressive performance resulting in a win over the Williamsburg Raiders girls’ soccer team, 2-1. Their success was stymied on Thursday, May 17, at home against South Tama, as they fell on Senior Night, 1-0.
It was a warm day under the sun in Williamsburg with both teams attacking on the field, developing a 1-1 stalemate in the first period. Solon’s Sylvia Havlicek was responsible for Solon’s score. The Lady Spartans offered up a more offensive performance, pressuring the goal but unable to complete. Jill Richards, Jayna Koffron and Kenzie Pentico with support from Stella Mesch played stout defense, circumventing several efforts by the Raiders on keeper Brenna Gogel.
The Lady Spartans huddled together on the field prior to the start of the second half and when they returned to play, the offensive focus continued. Solon spent much of the first seven minutes of the half on the Raiders’ end of the field, trying to work the ball inside to the goal. A see-saw battle ensued until about five minutes remained in the half when a pass from Havilecek found Brianna Smith streaking toward the goal and shooting it for the score. The Lady Spartans staved off the Raiders, turning away three Williamsburg advances in the last four minutes for the win, 2-1.
Gogel played all 80 minutes in the goal for the Lady Spartans allowing only the one goal in the first half and recording six saves.
Arguably one of the best offensive performances by Solon, Havlicek scored he first goal for the Lady Spartans shooting the ball four times, three of which were shots on goal including the score, and she recorded the assist. Smith scored the Lady Spartans’ second goal as part of her two shots on goal and made three attempts. Grace Keith, Lauren Roeder and Megan Tucker all attempted shots, with Keith’s being the only other attempt on goal. The win moved the Lady Spartans to 5-8 for the season going into the Thursday, May 17, game at home versus the South Tama Trojans.
Head Coach John Tucker substituted many times, using it as a gauge to see what is working.
“Each game is different,” he said. “I play a lot of subs to see what is working well, and who is playing well in those spots. The better they play, the more they play. I think it really depends on the game, but in general, yes, I’m extremely happy with how well so many of the players have really stepped up this year. Especially as we have had to slide people around due to injuries.”
He cited improved communication played a part in Solon’s success at Williamsburg. “We have really been emphasizing communication and support. It really showed at Williamsburg, and I expect it to continue to improve as players are getting more comfortable in their new positions. The midfield support up and down the field is going to be important going forward,” he pointed out.
“Each game will have its own challenges,” he continued. “South Tama is our Senior Night, so the team is really focused on playing well in front of the home crowd. We need to play solid defense, and continue to work hard offensively to take some of the pressure off the defense. Regina is a completely different situation. We will be practicing on the old grass soccer field leading up to that game to get ready for their field. If things go well at regionals, we could face them again in the finals.”
The team focused on its last two regular season matches in preparation for the postseason, Tucker said.
“Every game and every practice, from here on out, sets us up to be successful in the post season. We played Liberty and know what to expect. I really don’t want to go to a shoot out again, so we are going to work hard on the things we saw from the first game we did well, as well as where we could have improved,” Coach Tucker iterated.
When the South Tama Trojans took to Spartan field in Solon, they met the same offensive-minded Solon team. The game started with an introduction of all the senior Lady Spartans’ team members; Kelsey Smyth, Heather Vance, Megan Tucker, Jill Richards, Mira Peckler, Madysen Hess, Delaney Bair, Faye Düster, Keith, Roeder, the injured Chandler DeWitt and with Smith introduced as the starting keeper.
The start held the promise of a Williamsburg-like repeat performance, however a slide into defensive posturing by the Lady Spartans to close out the first half led to 0-0 stalemate. Both teams played physical soccer in the second half, trying to determine the first to yield. With 8:43 remaining in the last half of play, the guest Trojans took a 1-0 lead. South Tama whittled the time away, forcing the Spartans to battle the clock and although they threatened, Solon succumbed, 1-0, on the Lady Spartans’ last regular season home appearance, and moved to 5-9 during regular season play.
Coach Tucker did not plan for the shift from offense to defense. “It was not a part of our plan. We always try to push up front to take pressure off the defense. Unfortunately, we were not able to get anything going, or keep momentum when we got the ball downfield,” he observed. “We are working on some more creativity up front. I think they realized what our strategy was, and then took that away. We did not respond well in adjusting our play. We will be working in practices to identify the defense being played, and how to take advantage of weaknesses during the game.
“We just need to fine-tune what we know will work, and come up with some more creativity through the midfield and up front in order to keep defenses on their heels. I think we have the skill, and now the experience in identifying what we are seeing, but we need to get better at working together as a team to put some goals on the board,” he reviewed.
The seniors were recognized with their parents between the games by their teammates and the crowd in attendance.
The Lady Spartans played Iowa City Regina, in Iowa City, on Tuesday, May 22.
Solon begins the postseason with a Class 1A Region 7 rematch against Liberty High Tuesday, May 29, at Spartan Stadium, at 6 p.m. This will be a rematch from a regular season game which ended with a Lady Spartan win after two overtimes and a shoot-out. Friday, June 1, at 6 p.m., the winner of the May 29 game visits Alburnett to compete against the winner of the Cedar Valley Christian and Anamosa game played on Tuesday, May 29.
Coach Tucker praised the team’s blossoming ability to adjust. “Haley (Melchert) and Jill (Richards) have really stepped up on the defense. They have done a really good job stopping the offenses. Megan (Tucker) has been doing really well in the midfield in transition. I think overall a lot of people have stepped up into roles they have not been comfortable with,” he said. “I’m hoping the last few games of the regular season help them gel as a team, and translate into success in the postseason. We know what we are up against, we just need to make sure everyone on the team understands their role, and work that much harder to play well together as a team.”