Facing tough competition, little time to practice outdoors and learning a knew system under a new coach, the Lakeland Union High School soccer team knew it would be a bit of a learning curve this season. Early on against some of the top teams in the state and playing against Division 1 schools, Lakeland struggled offensively to find the scoring edge. A bright spot for Lakeland was their defense which played well despite the team not earning a win in their first five games. But over the last four games, the Thunderbirds have turned the corner offensively and things are beginning to click for Lakeland as they went 3-1 during that stretch. “Offensively, we are starting to work together, the forwards are starting to make smarter runs and the midfielders are timing their passes much better with the forward runs,” coach Rhonda Maulson said. “We still have some work to do offensively so we can mix it up a bit and not be so predictable, but I am happy with the progress we made over the last four games. I am also very happy that we made it through this stretch of games without any big injuries. The last few games we saw a few more injuries than usual, and I think a lot of them were brought on just because their bodies are tired.” The final four-game stretch, playing four games in three days, was part of a nine-games-in-nine-days marathon the team endured due cancellations earlier in the season. Because of that, Maulson said it will be more important for Lakeland to rest rather than return to the practice field. “The girls have Sunday off, plus I am giving them Monday off so they can get some rest,” Maulson said. “We will be back at it Tuesday in Mosinee for a conference game. Things are starting to wind down and we are down to two games a week so we can finally get some practice time in and recover physically. It was a productive stretch of games, giving us an opportunity to see some very good teams and we were able to work through a lot of different things in game situations.” That stretch of games ended Saturday at D.C. Everest where Lakeland went 1-1 at the weekend tournament. The Thunderbirds fell to West Bend East 4-1 before shutting out Menomonie in the capper, 3-0. The four goals against East were the most the Thunderbirds have given up this season but Lakeland was in the match into the second half. “The game was much closer than the score indicates,” Maulson said. “We were tied 1-1 going into the second half, but they got the wind advantage the second half. The wind was as good as a twelfth player. West Bend used it to their advantage and scored three goals in the second half, all of them were shots taken well outside the box but got caught in the wind and floated into the corner of the net.” After West Bend took an early 1-0 lead, Lakeland tied the score with a goal just two minutes later as Jamie Lee found the net off a pass from Jamie Haertle. “[Lee] made a nice run and [Haertle] fed her a pass through the defense and [Lee] was able to walk in on the goalkeeper and score.” Maulson said. The score would remain tied until early in the second half, when West Bend took control with three unanswered goals. In the second game, Lakeland started against the wind but held Menomonie without a goal. “Menomonie had the wind advantage first half and we were fortunate to get out of the half without giving up a goal,” Maulson said. “They had a few chances, including a shot that hit off the crossbar.” With Lakeland weathering the storm in the first half, the Thunderbirds were the aggressor in the second half. The first goal came at 54 minutes as Haertle found the net, unassisted. “She had the ball at the top of the box and had her back to the goal,” Maulson said. “She turned and shot, beating the keeper low.” Six minutes later, Macy Smith scored her first goal of the season on a pass from Lee. Lee would get her chance to score as she found the net off a pass from Haertle to cap the scoring. Lakeland ended up with fewer shots on goal but never really had any good chances. “All of Menomonie’s shots were taken well outside the box and didn’t challenge [keeper] Natalie [Jonas] as she recorded her third shutout in four games,” Maulson said.
Lakeland 3, Medford 0 Lakeland took an early lead, then clamped down on defense to shut-out Medford 3-0 Friday at home. “We really played a nice game, had good ball movement and played a very controlled game,” Maulson said. Lakeland’s first goal came at the 11-minute mark as Clara Schroeder found the net and scored off the corner kick from Haertle. Haertle would earn an assist on Lakeland’s second goal as she lined up for a free kick which the keeper originally stopped but could not corral the rebound. Lee was there to put the ball into the net and Lakeland was quickly up 2-0. Sophie Annis closed out the scoring as she picked up her first varsity goal off a pass from Lee. Maulson said the offensive output from Lakeland showed the Thunderbirds are starting to get a feel for how to play together. “Our center midfielders and forwards are getting their timing down and are really starting to work together and create more and more scoring opportunities,” the coach said. “We are also spreading the field out and using our outside midfielders, which is helping to create more space in the middle of the field.” Maulson said it is gratifying to see the team coming together because everything has been done on the fly this season due to the adjusted schedule. “We have been going game-by-game making adjustments because we haven’t had any practice time with all of the games lately, but the girls are responding nicely and they are making those adjustments and getting results,” the coach said.
Lakeland 3, Newman Catholic 0 Despite the cold rain, the Lakeland offense was hot Thursday as they shut out Newman Catholic 3-0 on the road to earn their first conference win. Lakeland earned a 20-3 shot edge in the game. Haertle opened the scoring for Lakeland as she tallied her first varsity goal 33 minutes into the game. Schroeder picked up the assist on the play. That duo would not be finished there, however, as they teamed up to score Lakeland’s second goal of the game as Haertle found the net off the pass from Schroeder. Haertle added a helper on Lakeland’s final goal as she set up Kaitee Dumask, who found the net. “All three goals were very nice goals created by our center midfielders,” Maulson said. “Clara [Schroeder] has great vision on the field and is a big playmaker, doing a great job winning the ball and transitioning our team from defense to offense.” Jonas made three saves in the shutout. Bryan Rose may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.