By Mike Monahan

On a cold windy day, the Mattoon girls’ soccer team finally had a home game after playing seven on the road. And they Green Wave finally got the chance to play on their new turf field.

It was a rout.

The Green Wave scored three goals in a span of three minutes for a 4-0 lead with still 19 minutes left in the first half.

Mattoon got its seventh goal just before half, which meant that the second half was only going to be 20 minutes due to the seven-run lead.

The Green Wave went on to post an 8-0 Apollo Conference victory. 

The field, which also received lights, has two shades of green. 

“We wanted it that way,” said Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere. “It  looks like it was mowed in two tones and I love it. I am so excited about this field and so are the girls. I know the boys are looking forward to the fall as well. We are just lucky to have it and very appreciative of it. There are not very many high schools in the state that have just a soccer field, no football lines, turf  and just devoted to soccer. We are going to enjoy it. Every day, we kind of come out and practice and start looking at each other ‘I can’ believe we have this.’ It is nice to play on it.  It could have retained two inches in the morning and we could play in the afternoon. We are just so thankful we have it and excited to play on it.”

Mattoon last won by eight on May 24, 2021 in a 9-1 triumph over Monticello. 

The Green Wave improved to 8-0 overall, 2-0 in the Apollo. The eight straight is believed to be the best start in the 20 year history of the program.

“Whenever we get the ball back, you are not worried about stepping in a hole or slipping in mud like we are on some field,” said Mattoon freshman Bella Masse. “This is just a lot better quality for us and not that it should impact our game a lot, but I think it really helps us. It is going to treat us well this season.”

Piper Sanders scored the historic first goal on the field 10 minutes in on one of three assists by Lily Ghere. 

“Lily did a great cross in and I was just there to finish it,” said Sanders, who scored again 11 minutes later also on an assist from Ghere for a 4-0 advantage. It means a lot (first goal). It was really exciting and is something I can look back on. I was really happy about it.”

Faith Niebrugge scored the second goal on an assist from Taylor Kovach nine minutes after the first goal and Ghere scored on a free kick for a 3-0 advantage halfway through the first half. After Sanders’ second goal Niebrugge earned her second goal on an assist from Ghere. Masse scored two goals in five minutes, including the last one with less than a minute left in the half for a 7-0 lead. 

“It was pretty exciting,” said Masse. “I  have been waiting for that all season. I have not played to my best potential the rest of the season. I have been wanting to get going. I think this field has helped a lot because it is a lot smoother.  I feel like we moved the ball pretty well so it helps a lot. We played together and our forwards dropped the ball back a lot. It was easy just to lay it in. I think the wind helped too. I feel like I got some pretty good balls-perfect pass back from Lily and I just put it in.”

Mattoon has outscored its opponents by a 48-5 margin. The defense didn’t allow Lincoln into a scoring chance except a few minutes of the game.

“I thought the first 10 minutes was a little sloppy just getting back into it,” said Ghere. “I thought once we started passing the ball I thought we looked really good. When we start playing one- and two-touch soccer and pass the ball that is when we get our chances. We got stuck on the downwind side of the field and once we got to the windy side we just hit balls across and I thought we did  a good job of finishing. We did a good job on set pieces. We scored on two corners and a free kick. I think we have gotten better every game and I think we can get better still.”

Marley Van Hoveln scored the last goal eight minutes into the second half. 

“It is a lot different compared to last year when we played on the grass,” said Sanders. “I thought we played well together. We were ready for the game.”

Scoring four goals in the first 19 minutes made it fun for Sanders. 

“It is always fun to see that many goals against a team,” said Sanders. “I was enjoying it and it was just kind of low pressure and we were having fun.”

Masse said the turf was a lot easier to make certain runs.

“It is easier to flow and stuff and I feel like it is a lot easier for us to play together and move the ball better,” said Masse. 

Ghere said the only difference is that the turf is fast. 

“There are no bad bounces,” said Ghere. “That is what we kept talking to the girls about: ‘It is on you; there are no bad bounces. You can’t use that as an excuse.’ If you don’t anticipate where the ball is going to go it is going to get out of bounds in a hurry. That takes some getting used to. The turf is perfect and we will take it.”

Ghere knows they will face tough competition in the next 10 days, including Friday and Saturday at Urbana. 

“We play a team from Wisconsin on Friday, and I am sure they will be good and Saturday will be really good teams and another team from Wisconsin, Geneseo, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin and Herscher, who is 5-1. There are five or six really good teams. We will see where we are on Friday and Saturday and that is what we need. We play Champaign Central Monday, Taylorville and Mahomet-Seymour (next home game) Thursday. The next 10 days will be a really good test to see how good we really are. It has been a fun bunch to coach eight games in, but Friday will be a good test for us.”