LUCASVILLE — What started out as an early-season Southern Ohio Conference Division I first-place soccer showdown soon became a runaway on The Reservation.
That’s because the host and undefeated Valley Indians scored two first-half goals, then erupted for four second-half markers in the opening 29-and-a-half minutes, en route to routing the young St. Joseph Flyers for a 6-1 final on Thursday.
That’s correct, as the Indians amounted all half-dozen goals in a matter of almost 60 —and quickly, quite fast in fact, answered the Flyers’ only goal by Zach Johnson with 25:08 to play.
Austin Sommers, just 16 seconds before and only 30 seconds after, sandwiched goals around Johnson’s for a pair of three-point leads at 3-0 and 4-1 —as junior standout Lucie Ashkettle, in a matter of two minutes and 55 seconds, completed her first career hat trick.
All around, the undefeated Indians —now 6-0 and 2-0 in the SOC I with their other league victory being a 9-3 tripling up of Clay — took the fight to the Flyers from one end of the pitch to the other.
“It is good to see we can put together a full game on both ends. That shows our team is working together as a unit, both at the back and front ends and everything is falling into line with each other,” said first-year Valley coach Jacob Perry.
St. Joseph, which dropped to an even 3-3 with two of its three wins coming against New Boston and Clay in SOC I play, is undergoing a youth movement following the graduation of 13 seniors —and last season’s SOC small-school championship.
The Indians are clearly in the driver’s seat now for the five-team division, with Western competing in the conference in soccer for the first time.
Ashkettle, the junior wing, amassed her hat trick and exited to an ovation —but not until after almost flawlessly, and beautifully, blasting a shot from inside the 20-yard line just over the outstretched hands of Flyer freshman goalkeeper Eli Ford.
There was little Ford could do to stop that rocket, as Ashkettle only added to her strong season so far with her first three-goal match.
“I would say she is the most soccer-intelligent person on our team,” said Perry, of Ashkettle. “That was a great wide open shot she had for her third goal. Absolutely fantastic player. The way she sees the field and moves the ball.”
Ashkettle also added an assist to her four shots on goal — as her first goal gave the Indians a 2-0 advantage, and occurred immediately after Ford collided with a Valley player right in front of the net.
Ashkettle, in the right place at the right time, knocked the orb into an empty goal.
Valley fired 10 total shots right at Ford, along with three corner kicks, as Sommers scored on two of his three shots —with both of his goals a rapid 46 seconds apart.
Perry said that although the senior standout Sommers tallied twice for three-goal advantages, it was vital to Valley to respond to the Flyers’ only marker.
And, truth be told, with the four second-half scores, Perry praised the Indians’ play of that final 40 minutes —much more so than he did the first.
“It’s so important moving forward in the season learning to not keep our heads down and fighting back after adversity. So often, you get scored on, you see everyone’s heads immediately go down. We want to fight right back and immediately respond. I was very proud of guys for coming back, figuring it out, putting it together, and ending up scoring and not letting up,” said the coach. “We say all the time to fight from the first to the last whistle. We did that in the second half much better than we did in the first. You can never really complain about a 2-0 halftime lead, but what we were wanting to work on wasn’t working. We weren’t moving the ball, we weren’t finding passes like we should, we only had one day of practice this week in between games. In the second half, we moved the ball more, we talked more, moved off the ball more, and played with more energy. That got us to have balls going into the back of the net.”
Bryce Stuart scored the Indians’ opening goal —as Ashkettle, Sommers, M.J. Basham, Davey Petry, Colt Buckle and Chase Powell all posted assists.
Stuart shot twice at Ford, while Chase Ruby registered the other shot on goal.
Valley goalkeeper Chris Queen was credited with three saves.
The Indians, now solely atop the SOC I mountain, meets SOC II frontrunner —and fellow undefeated and archrival —Minford on Monday night.
First touch is set for 7 p.m., as Minford will have home pitch advantage —on the natural grass surface.
The Falcons, following their dramatic 2-1 and come-from-behind and late victory at Wheelersburg on Tuesday, are 7-0.
So, something —some way and somehow —HAS to give in the Lucasville-Minford Road rivalry.
Or, they can tie —although the Indians indeed aim to leave Minford following their seventh win.
“We’re going into their place, so this is a great test for us in the middle of the season. Having this game almost right in the middle of our year is the perfect opportunity to see how far we’ve grown as a team, and put together a scheme to move forward,” said Perry. “To get that ‘W’ would be a humongous confidence booster for us.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved