BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Holy Trinity’s girls soccer team went through the roughest stretch of the season over the past four games, but despite dropping 3 of 4 matches the Crusader’s moved up two spots in the state rankings.
But the girls got back to winning ways with an 8-0 win over Central Lee at home Thursday night, at South Park despite being without seniors Elyse Pothitakis and Mya Lawlor, and junior Maille Sheerin, who all suffered injuries over the weekend.
The win moves HTC to 7-4 on the year after losing two of three matches at the Adidas Tournament of Champions over the weekend in Burlington. Then Burlington Notre Dame shut out the Tuesday Lady Crusaders 2-0 in a match that was moved to The Turf due to rainy conditions.
Sophomore Claire Pothitakis scored four goals Thursday after being shut out in the last four games, with the exception of a penalty kick against Homewood Flossmoor. Pothitakis has 22 goals on the year.
Pothitakis opened the scoring in the first quarter just 1:54 seconds into the game, when Emily Box lifted a pass from midfield down the left side. Pothitakis went in and then tapped on the brakes, moved to the center and slid a shot past the Lady Hawks Shayna Niggemeyer in the net.
Just 1:03 later, Pothitakis was on the move again up the left side, but she dumped a short pass into the center of the box, where junior Elle Rashid popped it in for a quick 2-0 lead.
Pothitakis would score again still with less than five minutes gone in the game on an unassisted drive up the middle of the field to make it 3-0, prompting HTC coach Michael Sheerin to pull his strikers. He didn’t put the starters back in until the 22:06 mark of the first half.
The Crusaders beat the Lady Hawks 10-0 earlier in the year on a mercy rule, but Sheerin said Central Lee is improving and was physical. But HTC still had their way with the Hawks most of the evening. Sheerin and assistant coach Tom Gendron decided to move players around from their normal positions and get different looks.
“We wanted to teach things. We took our whole backline and moved them to the front line and took the front line and moved it to the middle so that they would begin to understand and see the field more from someone else’s perspective,” Sheerin said.
“We were having fun, but we weren’t making fun,” Sheerin said. “We respect the heck out of Central Lee for their effort as a new program and wanting to learn.”
With the starting strikers back in, the offense immediately clicked again with Nicole Pothitakis getting a shot on goal at 19:27 but the ball sailed just wide right. Claire Pothitakis would get her hattrick at the 15:31 mark when for the second home match in a row, she sent a left footed ball toward the net, but the spin on the ball caused it to fade up and over Niggemeyer into the right top of the net for a 4-0 lead.
Central Lee would stiffen on defense, with the HTC front line of Rashid, Claire Pothitakis and Taylor Boeding moving to midfield, and hold the Crusaders scoreless until junior Ashlynn Haas scored in the center off a dump from Box who took a centering pass from Taylor Boeding on the right wing for a 5-0 lead.
After the half, Boeding, Claire Pothitakis and Rashid would all get goals to se the final score 8-0. Boeding also took a header off a Pothitakis centering pass, that just missed wide right at the 37:05 mark.
Former Fort Madison High School alum and 2001 state participant Antonio Estrada is coaching the Lady Hawks in their first year of girls soccer.
He said he’s impressed with how much the girls have learned in one year
“We’re seeing improvement, We played them about two weeks ago and the girls are starting to understand the game a little better,” Estrada said.
“Half of these girls have either never played soccer or have not played in a very long time. Some have played for me when I coached the junior high for four years so that’s helping with the transition.”
He said his goal was to win two game and not get mercy ruled. HTC was the only team that put 10 goals up on the Lady Hawks. Central Lee has not scored a goal this year and Estrada said he would like to see the girls get a goal and have that confidence going into next year.
“I think we have a couple games left if we can reschedule Wapello and we have Keokuk left to so hopefully we can catch a win or two there to let the girls see what that feels like,” he said.
Holy Trinity will have another home game on Monday when they host Canton, Mo., at South Park.
This weekend the girls lost an opening round game in the Adidas tournament to Pekin, Ill., 2-0 to move to the consolation bracket where they knocked off Flossmoor 1-0 on a penalty kick showdown where Claire Pothitakis, Box and Haas all scored in the showdown.
The Crusaders would then fall to Lockport High School 4-0, Lockport would end up winning the consolation bracket. Olathe, Kan won the pool bracket that contained HTC and Burlington Notre Dame.