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.