By Mike Monahan

MATTOON – On a dreary, misty day, Mattoon tested its new turf.

Water splashed off the ball as it rotated on the turf and a sploosh sounded as it hit the wet turf. 

“It would have been sloppy, if we could have played,” said Mattoon girls soccer coach Ryan Ghere. “The turf field was great.”

The Green Wave adjusted in the second half, scoring six goals to beat Mt. Zion 8-1 to secure second place in the Apollo Conference.

“We played with just one forward in the second half,” said Ghere. “When you go from two forward to one forward you would not think you would score that many goals and we put six oin the net playing a different formation. The girls made a good adjustment. It got Lilly (Ghere) and Piper Sanders out wide and into space. It gave Piper and Faith Niebrugge more work to work up top. The midfielders did a good job of getting them the ball. It was a tale of two halves. We took control of the game in the second half and really their only chances were on counter attacks. It was a good all around effort offensively and defensively.”

Mattoon, which has won six of its past seven games, improved to 16-5 overall and 8-2 in the conference. 

Mt. Zion (15-5, 6-4) had its four-game winning streak snapped. 

Mattoon previously beat Mt. Zion 3-0 on March 14 and 6-0 on April 19. 

“The turf was faster than the other ones we have played on because it is worn out,” said senior forward Faith Neibrugge. “It could get slow when it rolled because of all that water., but when it was launched it skips and that is when it goes faster. That is probably the hardest thing because it goes so fast.”

The Braves led after a goal by freshman Maddie Kendall 11:07 into the first half. It took just six minutes for Mattoon to tie the score on a 30-yard kick by Lily Ghere that landed just over the head of the goalkeeper, Denver Anderson, and landed in the back of the net. 

“That is why we like her on the left hand side because she has that good right foot,” said coach Ghere. “She got open on the left side and put it up on the next and it just went over the keepers head. We keep telling the team to just shoot the ball and good things will happen. We had a couple of rebound goals and the goalie misplayed a couple of balls. Put the ball in the box and give yourself a chance and that is what we did.”

The Green Wave took the lead for good on a goal by Bella Masse off an assist from Faith Niebrugge. The goal occurred 37:30 into the first half. 

“I thought the first half was competitive,” said coach Ghere. “They jumped out to a lead and I thought we did a good job of keeping our composure just coming back and tying and taking the lead right before half.”

Neibrugge, who had two goals and two assists, said the adjustment in the second half opened a lot of areas. “Like I could play more out wide and there weren’t as many people on me or Lily (Ghere) and so we were more open and she had more time to get the ball in the corner and use her right foot.”

In the second half, Niebrugge assisted Piper Sanders just six minutes and 53 seconds into the half. Three minutes later Gabrielle Ray assisted Ghere for a goal and a 4-1 advantage. 

“It was pretty fun (after leading 4-1 and 5-1) and then we can experiment  with more offensive tact and be able to get to different positions instead of just launching the ball over the top and someone going to get it.”

Neibrugge scored on an assist from Lily Gregory. Mattoon kept the offensive attack going with Gregory assisting Neibrugge  and Neibrugge earning an unassisted goal 30 minutes into the second half for a commanding 6-1 lead. Chloe Pruitt scored on assist from Kam Lathrop and Blair Powers earned her first career goal on an assist from Reese Updegraff as the freshmen duo connected with 39:40 gone in the second half. 

“Four of our assists came from defenders,” said Ghere. “Lathrop, Updegraff and two by Gregory.  Our offense started with our defense. They put balls in the box and that ball that Gregory played to Ghere she took it right off her shin and passed it in. It was a great play. The defense should be involved in our offense and tonight they were.”

It was the first of two assists by Gregory. 

“I tried to kick it over the opponents and not too far that the goalie could get it,” said Gregory. “It feels pretty good to have two assists and it is great that my teammates are so supportive of me. Usually I just think about getting the ball to my teammates so they can score.”

Mattoon plays host to Olney on Tuesday on Senior Day at 4:30 p.m.