PALMYRA – On the surface, it looked like a team off to a slow start running into another one that’s pretty good. But upon a further and deeper examination the causes may be of origins which are more troubling.
On Tuesday night at In The Net Sports Complex, the Palmyra girls’ soccer team was dominated by unbeaten Lower Dauphin, in a 7-0 Falcon rout. Sure LD is pretty good, but the Cougars weren’t competitive in many phases of the game.
In owing the midfield, the Falcons tallied three goals in the contest’s opening 18:33, on their way to a 5-0 halftime lead. Lower Dauphin scored on half of its ten first-half shots, and ended up out shooting Palmyra 20-5 and taking nine corner kicks to the Cougars’ one.
Simply put: it wasn’t one of Palmyra’s more memorable performances.
The loss to its rival left the Cougars, who qualified for the District Three Class AAA postseason a year ago, 4-5 overall and 2-2 in the Keystone Division of the Mid-Penn Conference. Behind four goals and an assist from prolific forward Taryn Messik, Lower Dauphin improved to 8-0 on the fall and 5-0 in the Keystone Division.
“It was a lack of heart, a lack of desire,” said Palmyra head coach Amber Miller. “I think if you asked them, the team would say that too. It’s what we’ve been struggling with all year.
“Heart is something that’s not coach-able,” continued Miller. “Players either have it or they don’t. I can’t instill it in them. They can be (passionate), but for the longest time we’ve looked for some leadership. Now we’re finally getting it.”
The Falcons went on the attack from the opening kick and didn’t relent until they had an insurmountable lead. Sustained pressure off the first touch resulted in Lower Dauphin’s initial tally, a goal from Shayna Macfarland, 7:15 in.
Macfarland out raced the Palmyra defense to a long ball, beat Cougar keeper Katie McClellan to it as well and then rifled a quick shot low into the far corner of the net. Five minutes later, Messik collected her first of the night, slipping a well-placed ball along the ground inside the right post, with her right foot while going left.
“I think they’re a good team,” said Miller of the Falcons. “But I don’t know if they’re a 7-0 of a good team, against us. We didn’t play like we were playing against our rival. I think Taryn Messik is a phenomenal player.
“I would say it wasn’t our night after the first goal,” added Miller. “The girls shut down and didn’t play. They weren’t resilient.”
Messik made it 3-0 midway through the first half by converting a penalty kick with a bomb into the left side of the Cougar net, and followed that up with a left-footer off a one-v-one move that deflected off of McClellan’s hand and inside the left post. Then Messik turned play-maker, setting up teammate Jillian Kline for an easy goal, with a hard cross from a tough angle, 7:21 before the intermission.
Of their five attempts, the Cougars’ most dangerous shot was a 30-yard direct kick off the foot of Angelica Kays. Kays struck the ball well, and it caromed off Falcon keeper Nicole Boyd’s finger tips and momentarily landed behind her, before Boyd recovered for the save.
At the time, the Falcons were only up 1-0. Lower Dauphin spent the rest of the evening marking dangerous Cougar Maddie Good with two defenders.
“I know, but unfortunately I don’t think that’s the case,” said Miller to the notion that the undefeated Falcons were afforded too much respect by her troops. “They (her players) know they’re a good team. They wanted to play better. But wanting it isn’t enough.
“We didn’t mark well in the midfield,” continued Miller. “We lost two big players from our midfield. They (the Falcons) passed right around us in the midfield. They (her players) didn’t communicate.”
“The lack of heart and desire and leadership is killing us,” said Miller. “We’re a much better team than our record shows. We’re not very deep into our season, so we haven’t had time for those (preseason) expectations to play out. We have to build on our successes, and we have to get back on our game.”