With several wins under their belt, the Nation Ford Lady Falcons continue to prove they are just as competitive as any other varsity soccer team. They are now ranked 15th in the state.
Nation Ford Lady Falcons beat Rock Hill 6-2 recently in a convincing fashion. The first 30 minutes of the game was dominated by the Lady Falcons, more specifically junior Katie Kozlowski.
"Katie Kozlowski [was] proving virtually unstoppable during that span," said head coach Ben Jacklin.
After the first few minutes though, the Falcons started to slow a little.
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"We gave up the first goal with a minute left in the first half and handed momentum over to Rock Hill," Jacklin said.
Rock Hill's momentum carried into the second half during which they scored both of their goals.
"They outhustled and outworked us that last 50 minutes and created all sorts of problems for us," Jacklin said. "It takes a lot of character to battle back from a 5-0 deficit and stay in the game."
Even still, the Lady Falcons came out on top. Kozlowski topped the charts with three goals, followed by Sara Bebeau and Megan Katz who each had a goal. To seal the game off, a Rock Hill player scored on its own team; thus giving Nation Ford its sixth and final point. Junior Aly Shearer had two assists, Nicole Park, Kozlowski and Anjali Patel each had an assist.
To continue its domination, the Lady Falcons defeated York 6-0 at home. This was the last home game for Nation Ford at the high school. Its remaining home games have been moved to Fort Mill Middle School for the remainder of the year.
"We are finally getting healthy and had our full roster healthy enough to play for the first time in week," Jacklin said.
Shearer, who had been out for two weeks due to a foot injury, started as center defender. Macy Simpson, who had a strained hip-flexor, was also able to start at center midfielder.
"I was very happy with the way we played against York because not only did we win and kept the shutout, but we played good quality soccer and worked hard for the full 80 minutes," Jacklin said.
Jacklin also said the team played very well together.
"This was a great team effort, as everyone who stepped out there for us contributed and played well," he said.
Goals were scored by Morgan Sauls, Caroline Ficklen, Danielle Agnew, Kozlowski, Sarah Metallo and yet another "own goal." Kozlowski also had three assists, Shearer and Ficklen also had assists. Kelsey Blair ensured the shut out.
The Lady Falcons proved that three games in one week would not weaken their spirits.
Ignoring what can only be exhaustion from the events of the week, the Falcons traveled to Clover and won 1-0 with another shutout.
"I've been looking forward to this match all season," Jacklin said.
While Jacklin tried to keep the Lady Falcons rested for a two-week period to get everyone healthy, scheduling just wouldn't allow it.
"I knew we weren't at full strength for that match; my goal was to try to rest players the last two weeks and get everyone healthy for this match," Jacklin said.
Clover has a reputation of being of the best teams in the region. Fort Mill is the only other school to prove to be good competition for Clover.
"Clover has a great reputation for playing good, quality, possession-oriented soccer, which is what we're striving for at Nation Ford, so I was excited to see how we matched-up with them," Jacklin said.
The first 47 minutes of the game was a battle between two quality soccer teams, with not one goal to show for it on either side. Kozlowski had a "nicely placed long diagonal ball" which allowed teammate Park to break the tension in the 48th minute.
"We didn't sit-in and try to only defend," Jacklin said. "We actually played soccer with them for the first 65 minutes of the game."
The problem wasn't the competitiveness of the game though. The problem was the weather and worrying about playing too defensively after Parks' goal.
"I felt that would put too much pressure on us defensively for too long a period of time, especially against our relatively young and inexperienced team," Jacklin said.
"Led by Aly Shearer but strongly supported by three relative newcomers: Emily Mayhew, Caroline Ficklen and Rachel Rogers," the defensive line proved Jacklin wrong and played a great game to ensure yet another shut out.
Blair proved to be a forced to be reckoned with as goal keeper. She defended the Falcons' net well "against a very powerful and offensively dangerous team."
The two teams seemed to be relatively even and generated about the same amount of shot opportunities.
"The end, however, was nerve-racking," Jacklin said.
By the last 15 minutes of the game, exhaustion caught up with the Lady Falcons. They were forced to switch to mostly defense.
"We dropped another defender in to try to hold on to the win," Jacklin said. "The girls have worked very hard to get to this point and deserve the success they've had so far."
The win against Clover was a great moral boost for Jacklin and the Lady Falcons alike.
But they remain weary and will be forced to continue to practice hard.
A rematch against Clover and Northwestern continue to weigh on their shoulders. As well as two matches against "powerhouse" and rival Fort Mill loom in the not too distant future.
"So while we'll take the holiday weekend to enjoy this one, we've got to put it behind us focus on one opponent at a time and keep improving and hopefully we'll be able to compete with those other three for a playoff spot come May," Jacklin said.
• March 28 vs. South Pointe, 7 p.m.
• April 1 vs. Rock Hill,
• April 3 vs. Fort Mill,