WEST LAFAYETTE – The West Lafayette girls soccer team scored early and often and rolled to a 6-3 victory over Hanover Central in the first round of the West Lafayette sectional Tuesday night.
The Red Devils will face Culver, an 11-0 victor over Benton Central, at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the West Lafayette field. Kankakee Valley will take on Twin Lakes in the other semifinal at 7:30.
West Lafayette was coming off a tough loss to Harrison last week. After trailing Harrison 3-0 early, the Red Devils rallied to tie the score before losing 4-3. That loss played a big part in Tuesday’s victory.
“It felt like more of a win for us after coming back from the three goal deficit,” West Lafayette coach Shauna Stapleton said. “I think it showed our players that the game is not over until it is over.”
“I think that was the first game that we stepped it up and went hard for the full 80 minutes,” West Lafayette’s midfielder Madeline Lynam said. “We know how that should feel now.”
The Red Devils did not need to rally to win in their first sectional game. They jumped out to a 4-0 lead and were up 5-1 at halftime behind the play of Lynam and Katy Penquite.
Lynam accounted for two goals and had one assist while Penquite added a goal and had two assists.
“It was very important for us to get off to a fast start,” Lynam said. “We make it a goal to score within the first five minutes of every game. It gets us off to a great start and sets a good tempo for the rest of the game.”
Penquite got things started for West Lafayette by knocking in a goal with 35:36 left in the first half. The Red Devils scored less than two minutes later when Alyson Haehl scored off a scramble in front of the goal after a corner kick from Avery Bartlett.
Caroline Sautter made it 3-0 West Lafayette with 27:45 left. Lynam got her first goal to run the lead to 4-0 with 12:46 remaining.
Hanover Central, which had only three shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, finally got on the scoreboard when Madison Spejewski scored off a corner kick from Breanna Nirtaut.
Lynam got the final goal of the half off of a Sautter assist with 8:45 left to make it 5-1 at the break.
“I thought our offense looked very strong,” Stapleton said. “We played very quick and had a creative attack.”
Things slowed down for the Red Devils in the second half. Alexandra Lynam sent a long shot into the net off another assist by Penquite to give the Red Devils their biggest lead at 6-1. But that would be the final score for the Red Devils.
“We had a couple defensive errors in the second half,” Stapleton said. “I don’t think it was because of the lack of effort. We just have some things we need to sharpen up."
Then Hanover Central mounted a mini-comeback. With many of the West Lafayette starters on the bench, the Wildcats got their second goal when Savannah Ferry scored off a rebound shot to make it 6-2.
Alexis Vera brought the Wildcats to 6-3 when she sailed a penalty kick just outside the box over the West Lafayette goalie with 16 minutes left to play.
“We rested a lot of starters in the second half,” Madeline Lynam said. “I think overall we did what we had to do. There were a couple breakdowns that we will be working on before we play Culver.”