One of if not the best player for the Swanton girls soccer program over the last four years, Aricka Lutz, was awarded a penalty kick opportunity late in Tuesday’s home matchup with Archbold and did not let her team down. Her goal with just over 10 minutes to go lifted the Bulldogs to a 2-1 win over the defending Northwest Ohio Athletic League champion Blue Streaks.
The victory was also the first league win for first-year coach Kendra Gustafson.
“Amazing,” said Gustafson on her thoughts after the win. “Thank god for our defense today, because they were killing it. We came out attacking right away, we got one in less than a minute and it was looking good. But we were staying a little bit flat and we couldn’t figure out (how to cover) the middle. But we picked it up. Then that second goal from the PK, that definitely put a boost in our butt to go. We started fighting.”
With 10:02 on the clock, the Swanton senior calmly buried her PK attempt in the left-corner past a diving Archbold goalkeeper, Reagan Kohler, putting the Dogs ahead for good.
Archbold assistant coach Jennifer Kidder was unsure of the foul call against her defender.
“Obviously I don’t have the best view, but it looked like Grace (Mayer) got all ball. But, apparently the referee saw it different. It was an unfortunate situation,” she said.
Swanton also scored the first goal of the game, when Lutz banged one in from deep right for a 1-0 lead just 57 seconds into the contest.
The Blue Streaks’ Regan Ramirez had a pair of scoring chances over the next 15 minutes — including one on a free kick — but both came up short.
But, they did cash in with just under 17 minutes left in the first half as Natalee Rose fit one in the upper-left corner of the net past Swanton keeper Frankie Nelson to tie it.
The Bulldog defense would tighten from there — despite a quality effort from Archbold’s offense.
“We actually did keep our (defensive) formation, but we tweaked it a little bit. We just changed it our second half against Southview on Saturday, then we had one practice (ahead of playing Archbold) to work on it. Our defense did awesome; they were a brick wall today. They were not letting anything through. Frankie is on her feet, she’s ready to go,” explained Gustafson.
Megan Haselman of Swanton got a shot off from inside 12 yards at the 14 minute mark, but it was turned away by Kohler.
The Streaks tried to duplicate what Swanton did early in the first half in the second, with Macy Peterson creating a quality opportunity for herself. She made her way around a Bulldog defender on the left side and lifted a shot to the net that was saved by Nelson just 47 seconds in.
A short time later, Peterson set up teammate Leah McQuade with a nice through ball; however, McQuade’s shot went right.
“We controlled the ball, I would say probably 75% of the game,” said Kidder on the Streaks’ offensive effort. “That second half, our passes were much better than the first half. But, you know, that’s how the game goes.”
Archbold had probably its best chance to score in the second half approximately 3:30 before Lutz’ PK. They sent a flurry of shots at Nelson, the latter coming off the foot of Ramirez that was hauled in by the Swanton keeper.
Though the loss stings right now for the defending champs, they can take solace in knowing there is a lot of season left to be played.
“We just have to regroup and start over from here,” said Kidder. “Every one of us has to sit and evaluate our role and what happened here today. Do what we need to do to refocus and move forward and come out on top.”
On the other side, Swanton controls its own destiny within the league race.
“Going forward, it’s looking good for us for the league,” said Gustafson. “That’s what I just told the girls. ‘Let’s keep going one game at a time, because everyone shows up for the same thing and we all want to win.’”