GIRLS SOCCER: Baeza’s hat trick leads Manteno over Beecher
MANTENO — Manteno coach Justin Emerson wasn’t necessarily too pleased with how his team looked in Monday’s victory against Kankakee.
So he challenged them during this week’s slate of practices to be more physical and aggressive when attacking.
Well, that messaged was received loud and clear. The Panthers launched 10 shots on the evening and converted six into the back of the net for a 6-0 shutout victory against Beecher on Friday.
“It was great to see the girls respond really well and finish their opportunities,” Emerson said. “We got out-toughed, and we lost a lot of 50-50 balls which I didn’t expect to be the case, so we did a lot of drills the girls didn’t like, ranging from heading the ball for distance to going in for tackles. But it seemed to pay off since we mostly dominated the 50-50 region.”
Manteno wasted very little time establishing itself as the aggressor and launched four shots within the first eight minutes of the game.
It was the fifth attempt that started the drubbing. Manteno was on the right side of the box when the ball got past Beecher’s goalie and Savanah Baeza finished it for a 1-0 lead.
Baeza was just warming up though. After Alyse Crowe and Kira Grisham each found the back of the net, pushing the lead to 3-0, Baeza struck again for her second goal of the game just 10 minutes into the second half.
“We have a lot of different girls who can easily put the back in the back of the net,” Emerson said. “We have a nice balance of girls from seniors to freshmen all chipping in, which is a great thing to have across the board.”
The sophomore midfielder seized the moment just three minutes later and struck again to complete the hat trick and put the Panthers ahead 5-0 before Ryan Conway tallied the final goal of the evening.
“What makes Savanah so good is that whether she’s outside or up top, she has incredible pace,” Emerson said.
“She can fly up and down the field, even though it looks like she’s not sprinting because it looks so graceful. If she can continue to finish the way she did tonight, she’s going to be an incredibly dangerous player for us.”
going on Lockdown
Manteno didn’t just dominate offensively, it completely shutdown any hopes Beecher had of mustering some type of offense.
Although it was just 2-0 at halftime, the Bobcats hadn’t been able to get off one shot attempt, and once Grisham notched the Panthers’ third goal, it seemed to break the Bobcats.
“We’re struggling, but we’re not going to make excuses,” Beecher coach Dawn Compton said. “We lost a core of our team from last year, and we’re having trouble putting the pieces together. It’s the simple things in soccer, like connecting passes, communicating and finding one another, among other things that have us struggling.
“We’ll improve; it’s just a matter of getting games under our belts and continuing to play.”
Defensively, the Panthers gave the Bobcats no room to breathe and overwhelmed them with their movement.
Beecher didn’t get off one shot attempt the entire game.
“I’ve praised our defense for the past couple of days of practice,” Emerson said. “They’re doing really well. There’s still positioning and tactical things to work out, but we’re liking we we’re seeing from our back line.”
Manteno returns to the pitch Tuesday at home against Francis W. Parker, while Beecher is back in action at home Monday against Chicago Christian.