Lady Hounds open season with win

Four girls score as Fort Madison downs MEPO

FORT MADISON - It’s been almost two years since Natalie Randolph scored a goal.
Which is why she enjoyed getting the final goal of Fort Madison’s 4-0 win over Mediapolis on Thursday night to open the season.
Randolph’s goal with 32:14 left in the match off an assist from Reilynn Turnbull capped the night for the Bloodhounds, who showed off the potent offense they were expected to have this season.
“It was definitely exciting,” said Randolph. “I was trying to get one, and I got a good pass from Reilynn. So it was good.”
Randolph hadn’t scored since her four-goal night on May 20, 2022 in a regional first-round match against Keokuk. She missed all of last season as she recovered from a knee injury.
Randolph, who played volleyball and basketball at Holy Trinity this season, wasn’t sure how she would be able to play with the brace on her right knee.
“I definitely thought about that,” she said. “Soccer is very hard, with driving into the ground and stuff. But luckily my recovery is going well.”
“Coming back after an ACL injury, it’s just gaining confidence,” Fort Madison coach Carrie Burken said. “From the first practice until now, she’s gaining more and more confidence. When you have that sort of injury, and then you come out, you’re not sure how it’s going to go, how it’s going to feel. And so every day she gets more comfortable, more and more like the form she was before she got injured.”
The biggest change, Randolph said, was learning how to play with new teammates up front like sophomores Hadley Wolfe and Halle Menke.
“It’s definitely an adjustment, a very different team than what I played with before,” she said. “So I feel like in practice we’ve been trying to connect a lot, see what different people like, and it’s definitely helped. And I think it stood out on the field tonight.
“It’s definitely a lot of communication. It’s definitely working and talking through it.”
Randolph and defender Irelynd Sargent, who is also coming off an ACL injury last season, went through some of the same issues wearing braces on their right knees.
“We both have horrible calf cramps,” Randolph said, smiling.
Burken liked what she saw in Sargent’s play in her return.
“She’s playing a little more of a different position than before — she’s in the center and not on the outside,” Burken said. “So it’s a little bit different. But it’s the same thing, just getting more and more comfortable every day, kind of being in that soccer shape and soccer IQ.”
The Bloodhounds kept the offensive pressure on the Bullettes throughout the first half before breaking through. Teagan Snaadt delivered the first goal of the night, knocking one in from the right side with 15:06 left in the first half. Wolfe followed with the first of her two goals at the 12:56 mark, and Fort Madison led 2-0 at halftime.
Wolfe scored on a breakaway off a pass from Randolph 2:16 into the second half to push the lead to 3-0.
Fort Madison had 11 shots on goal.
“I was really happy with our possessions tonight,” Burken said.
Burken has eight freshmen on the roster, and spent the night looking to see how different combinations worked.
“I like that we were able to get a lot of people in,” Burken said. “With this being our first game, I really wanted to rotate a lot of people in to get their feet wet, to see what they can do at this level, because we have a lot of freshmen, and that transition from middle school to high school, it’s a faster paced game. You could see our passes were a little slow, or we weren’t quick to move or communicate. So I think this game was good in helping me understand who has good chemistry, who is at the varsity level, who needs more time with things to work on, that sort of stuff.”
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