The Highlighters, parents, sisters, brothers, and friends will get together this evening at 7:00 at Reservoir Park, near the corner of 22nd Street and 17th Avenue. We’ll play an informal match or two, just for the fun of it. Try to wear orange or green to supplement our limited supply of mesh practice jerseys.
“This tastes like victory,” said assistant coach Jeff Moore as he ate a Whitey’s ice cream cone on Saturday after the Highlighters’ season finale. The team had earlier defeated a plucky Galva squad on an unexpectedly sunny early afternoon at the Campbell Sports Complex.
The offensive star for the neon yellow Lighters was surely Caden Punkiewicz, who scored all five of the team’s goals, but the team demonstrated its best passing of the year throughout the match. Starting with a lot of energy, the Lighters scored at the 3-minute mark. Galva equalized at 10 minutes on a penalty kick. Punkiewicz scored again in the 18th and 24th minutes to put the Highlighters up 3-1 at half.
Keeping the opponents away from taking clear shots on the home team’s goal were defenders Sophia Xiao, Taylor Madison, Hannah House, and, of course, keeper Dakota Arnold, who made several saves and cleared the ball reliably. Working the midfield, and running a lot on a hot day, were captain John Huntley, Erik Tunnell, and Dionicio Guerrero. Amber Work came on later at center mid, and Koby Peterson made at least two fine passes from his position at right mid. Helping out later on defense were Jacinda Solis, Zoe Veasey, and Caleb Engebrecht. Fredy Zetina provided his characteristic high energy and ball handling from his stopper position.
Early in the second half the Highlighters moved ahead 4-1 when Huntley dribbled into the box and softly laid off the ball to his right for an easy goal by Punkiewicz. Forwards Katie Moore, Alex McAtee, and Jada Veasey continued to apply pressure, but neither team scored until Galva tallied in the 51st minute. Punkiewicz countered with his fifth goal at 54 minutes. Galva didn’t quit, though, and kept it close with a goal at 55 minutes to make it 5-3, which is where the match ended.
Following the game, coach Replinger thanked the team parents and his assistants. He noted the players’ progress in learning to move the ball to their teammates. The following players received awards:
Top Striker—Caden Punkiewicz
Most Valuable Player—Fredy Zetina
Rookie of the Year—Katie Moore
Top All-Field Player—Caleb Engebrecht
Most Improved Player—Taylor Madison
Top Defender—Dakota Arnold
The victory pushed the Highlighters above the break-even point for the season, and they finished with a 4-3 record.
Here is a slideshow from the match, courtesy Jeff Moore:
After rallying from a 1-0 halftime deficit to take a 2-1 lead, the Highlighters gave up two late goals and lost 3-2 Thursday evening.
The rival Rock Island White Lightning seemed to control play early, putting several blasts over and around the goal. A score finally came in the 27th minute when a rocket from the penalty box nicked the leg of defender Taylor Madison and reached the back of the net to put the Whites up 1-0.
After refueling with cold drinks at the half, the Highlighters played the remainder of the match on even or superior terms, anchored by the midfield efforts of Dionicio Guerrero, Erik Tunnell, and John Huntley. In the 34th minute, Jada Veasey received a ball on the left wing and dribbled half the length of the field to knock one in for a 1-1 tie. Five minutes later, Caden Punkiewicz scored to give the Highlighters the lead.
In the 42nd minute, a Lightning player fell, or maybe flopped, in the penalty box, drew a whistle from the referee, winked at and high-fived his teammates, and then ripped his penalty kick past keeper Caleb Engebrecht for the tie.
In the ensuing 18 minutes, the play was up and down the pitch. Stopper Fredy Zetina was all over the field, taking corner kicks on one end and tracking back to cover Lightning star “Q” on the other. Madison broke up several Lightning forays with clever jab kicks. In the 52nd minute, the Lightning somehow scored their third goal to take a narrow lead. Veasey, Punkiewicz, and Katie Moore worked hard on the offensive end for the Highlighters but couldn’t reach the net before the referee’s three tweets ended the match.
“I was pleased with the overall effort tonight,” coach Replinger said after the game. “The players made some smart passes, and we had a few close-in shots that could have given us a draw or a win. But best of all, we got to eat ice cream afterward.”
The Highlighters’ record fell to 3-3 on the season. They host Galva on Saturday, May 21, at noon and seek to end the season with a winning record.
Sporting a 3-2 record, the Highlighters end their season with two matches in three days this week. On Thursday at 5:45 (arrive before 5:30), the Lighters take on their Rock Island rivals, White Lightning, for a second time this season. Their first match, back on April 9, ended with a 3-2 win for the Highlighters.
On Saturday, May 21, Galva visits Rock Island for a noon match with the Lighters. Players should be at the field at 11:40 at the latest.
The team scrimmaged on Tuesday this week and invited siblings and parents to participate. At least two brothers, two sisters, one mother, and four fathers pulled on their boots and knocked the ball around. Here are a couple of photos.
Photos from our 6-1 win:
The Highlighters will play an Orion team on their home pitch this Staurday at 10:30 (be there no later then 10:10). See “Schedule” or Print Schedule” for driving directions to Orion.
We have two more matches beyond the Orion game, both at the Campbell Complex. On May 14 we play another Orion team, and on May 21 we play a make-up match at home against Galva.
Light ’em up.