Girls varsity soccer defeats Lowell 2-0 in its fourth consecutive shutout

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Girls varsity soccer defeats Lowell 2-0 in its fourth consecutive shutout

A pair goals by junior Kelsey Toole was the difference maker in last night’s game vs. the Lowell Red Arrows in a big 2-0 win. Kelsey’s confidence offensively is a huge reason why the Lady Rangers are continuing to win game after game.

“Recently I’ve been playing with more confidence instead of immediately passing the ball off as soon as I get it,” Kelsey said. “I’ve been carrying the ball a little bit and taking more shots. This is translating into more goals.”

As well as the offense has been playing lately, the Lady Rangers have found their groove defensively, as this is now their fourth consecutive shutout since a loss to rival Forest Hills Northern. Junior Ally Francisco had 2 immaculate saves to keep the shutout alive for FHC. For Ally and the rest of this team, this needed to be a spectacular defensive performance, as the team’s chances at winning a conference championship were on the line.

“Our whole season was on the line because of our early loss against FHN, and we knew Lowell was a great and competitive opponent coming in,” Ally said. “So I went in with the mindset that we had to win and do whatever we needed to do to stay on top.”

The challenge for FHC coming in was marking the fast forwards of Lowell in Regan Coxan and Chloe. Head coach Ashley Ludtke assigned these talented forwards to senior captain Ashley Ward and sophomore Autumn Burns. Autumn did a spectacular job marking Chloe and says that the great work defensively came from a solid practice plan put in by Coach Ludtke.

“[In practice] we did a lot of drills that focused on clearing the balls out of the box,” Autumn said. “We [also] practiced big clearances and a lot of headers, which I think we executed [well].”

As well as the defense played, the offense also played very well. The midfield of senior captain Grace Kline and sophomore Gwen Henderson did a great job of pushing the pace and looking for the forwards to get opportunities at the net, which they got tonight. Most of the midfielders even got some opportunities at the net themselves, so it was good to see the Lady Ranger offense get scoring chances in different ways.

FHC started off the game surprisingly quickly, which has been a struggle for the team so far in big games like these. Kelsey Toole broke past the goalie in the first ten minutes of the ball game to put the first points on the board for either team. For Coach Ludtke and the Lady Rangers, this is exactly the start they wanted.

“We wanted to play with high intensity from the first whistle to the last tonight,” Ludtke said. “We came out with a level of energy and grit [that] we have been lacking at times this season. We were more prepared to play some scrappy soccer and wanted to strike first on the scoreboard.”

FHC would start to feed off the early goal and would continue to get many more opportunities at the net in the first half. As the tide started to turn a tad and Lowell started to warm up, the Lady Rangers held strong and put a great offensive team in Lowell in a very difficult situation that it hadn’t been in all year. FHC went into halftime up 1-0 in what promised to be another defensive slugfest.

The Lady Rangers transitioned well from the first half to the second half, as they duplicated the start they had for the start of the game into the start of the second half. Kelsey would score another goal off an incredible lob pass from Ally Francisco to extend FHC’s lead to 2-0. Kelsey’s confidence offensively is a huge reason why the Lady Rangers are continuing to win game after game.

The Lady Rangers’ close to the game might be the most impressive part of this victory. While on a breakaway, senior goalie Alexa Lauer missed a save but Ally was able to deflect the shot off of her back and save the goal. Then just a couple minutes later, a Lowell player had a great look at the goal, and Ally was able to save the goal from happening once again. FHC walked away with a 2-0 victory over a very good Lowell team.

“Defensively, we are communicating better,” Ludtke said. “Not just talking more, but listening to our teammates. This has helped us get more organized and defend more effectively in high-pressure situations. Lowell put a lot of pressure on us until the end of the game. I’m really proud of our defense for hanging in there and working hard to the end.”

With the big win, FHC now sits at 7-2 overall and an impressive 4-1 in the OK White conference after losing to FHN a little more than a week ago. The Lady Rangers will be back on their home turf tonight against the East Grand Rapids Pioneers. The Pioneers are coming off a tough 1-0 loss to Grand Rapids Christian, so they will be out for blood come tonight night at Ranger Stadium. Despite the quick turnaround, the Lady Rangers are still very happy with the victory over the Red Arrows.

“I’m just so proud of our team and the intensity and effort we put into the game,” Ally said. “Overall, as a team, we had a great performance, which helps to motivate us to win in the future.”

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