Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Charleston was darned if they do, and darned if they didn’t.
The Trojans clogged the midfield denying Faith Niebrugge only to see Mattoon’s Lily Ghere take advantage from the wing. When Charleston closed down the wing on Ghere, Niebrugge made them pay as Mattoon defeated Charleston 8-0 Thursday afternoon.
Niebrugge scored three goals and Ghere had two as Mattoon improved to 12-4 overall, 4-1 in the Apollo. Charleston, which managed only two shots on goal, dropped to 3-8-1, 1-4-1 Apollo.
“I think we played well,” Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere said. “Every game, we keep playing better than the game before. We had a good week. We beat Mount Zion 6-0 on Tuesday and now Charleston 8-0. That’s a good week for us.”
Lily Ghere scored the opening goal at 31 minutes, was credited with an own goal just two minutes later and assisted on a beautiful breakaway by sophomore Piper Sanders.
When the junior wasn’t shining on the wing, Niebrugge was in the midfield. The senior assisted on Ghere’s first goal, scored a breakaway in the first half, and scored two more three minutes apart midway through the second half.
“That’s what we talked about at halftime,” Ghere said. “I thought we did a nice job of doing different things. We weren’t one-dimensional. We didn’t just take it up the side and cross it. We didn’t just play it up the middle. When you do that, you’re tough to defend. We had good passing through the middle and played balls over the top to get breakaways. I thought all around we played well. Defensively, we were solid. They may have had one or two good chances. They did a good job of being in the right spots.”
Charleston coach Ali Gowan said the team was aware of the Green Wave’s potential but didn’t react quick enough.
“I think that’s something we were aware of, and they were good at changing that up,” she said. “We just have to be quicker to recognize those things. We did that a part of the game, but then we let them play the other part of the game. I think that’s what got us.”
Niebrugge had another breakaway in the second half but waited too long to attempt a shot. Charleston goalkeeper Ally Logsdon challenged her and blocked a point-blank shot, upending Niebrugge who fell over her.
The sophomore, instead of immediately clearing the ball, went back to help Niebrugge up off the turf in a gesture of sportsmanship.
“There was some good sportsmanship all around,” Gowin said. “We definitely played tough to the end with what we had. It’s a bummer to lose,” noting her squad adapted as much as possible considering they were shorthanded due to injury.
Gowin said the biggest hurdle for her squad is consistency.
“I truly think that we need to put together a full game,” she said. “We’ve had pieces. But, cohesively, that’s where we’re headed.”
Ghere noted a hint of sadness as each game passes. “Every game we say that’s one less game we get to watch these girls play,” he said. “As coaches, it’s nice we get to sit and watch and just fine-tune things.”
Ghere 1 (Niebrugge 1), 31:00
Ghere 2, 29:00
Niebrugge 1 24:00
Sanders 1 (Ghere 1) 20:00
Masse 1 (Kovach 1) 39:00
Niebrugge 2 (Reese 1) 45:00
Niebrugge 3 (Masse 1) 48:00
Jurka 1 (Shriver 1) 55:00