DHI Media Sports Editor
MIDDLE POINT — There is something to be said for losing to an elite team, especially when you are a program still on the rise. When Lincolnview joined the newly-formed Western Ohio Soccer League this fall, it dis so with the understanding that several of the other member have very strong soccer programs.
The Lady Lancers ran up against one of those powers, Sidney Lehman, on Thursday night and was hammered 10-0. But the Lancers paid attention to what Lehman did well and what made a strong team. On Saturday, hosting county rival Van Wert, the Lady Lancers applied those lessons and routed the Cougars by a 9-0 final.
“We’ve done a poor job of passing in the past, and we’ve really hit that since our whooping against Sidney Lehman, to pass the ball more, and not to dribble so much,” Lancer head coach Mark McCleery said following the match.
Just as Lehman did to Lincolnview’s keepers on Thursday, the Lancers did to Van Wert. From the first minute of the match, Lincolnview was applying pressure on the young Cougar defense. At 37:10, Lancer senior Julia Thatcher fired a blast from 18 yards that slammed against the cross bar, but classmate Hannah McCleery was there to clean up the rebound for the first score of the game.

Two minutes later, McCleery struck again, beating the defender to the box and leaving herself 1-on-1 with Cougar keeper Sadie Zartman. McCleery fired to the upper right corner of the net for a 2-0 game.
McCleery picked up a hat trick before the game was even 15 minutes old. A lead pass from freshman Frankie Carey found McCleery streaking into the box, where she fired to the low left corner to best the Cougar keeper.
Zartman continued to be peppered with shots, many of them coming with little defensive pressure. Zartman turned away a pair of Thatcher attempts in the next two minutes of game time before junior Brooke Schroeder connected for back-to-back goals at 25:31 and 21:46. Each time, Schroeder found herself on a breakaway with only the keeper to beat; a near impossible task for any netminder.
“That’s not her fault,” Van Wert head coach Rich Nouza explained. “Those were some defensive breakdowns; people diving in instead of jockeying, keeping people in front.”
Schroeder had a chance for a hat trick of her own, but Zartman came up with the save on a try at 20:33. With 4:46 to play in the half, Schroeder sent one just high, clearing the crossbar. The Lancers took a 5-0 advantage, on 15 shots on goal, into the break. Van Wert’s only shot on goal in the first half came from senior Alea Hill, whose 35-yard rocket was caught by Lancer keeper Maddie Gorman.
The Lancers kept their foot on the gas to start the second, as Savannah Bigham got into the goal-scoring act. Bigham found the net just 51 seconds into the second half. At 28:58, freshman Haley Pollock wound up on the seat of her pants, by did so as she watched her sliding attempt find its way to the top shelf behind Zartman for a 7-0 Lincolnview lead.
In all, Zartman faced 20 shots on goal before moving to a forward position. The final two Lancer scores came when freshman Camryn Nouza was in net for Van Wert.
Thatcher was finally rewarded for her offensive persistence with a shot past the Cougar keeper at 20:08, that coming on a McCleery assist. Minutes later, senior Claire Clay fired a shot that was saved by Nouza, but the rebound squirted free and freshman Alison Warnement was there to slam home the score from point-blank range.
Van Wert’s ShyLyn Shepherd had a pair of opportunities to get the Cougars on the board. She had a breakaway with 15:40 to play, but Gorman came out to force the issue and wound up preventing a shot. With two minutes left in the game, Shepherd took a blast from 14 yards, but that shot was deflected by a Lancer defender and became an easy save for Thatcher, who had moved into net.
“We played better in the second half, the intensity was a bit better,” Nouza added. “We’re a young, inexperienced team, so we need to build the things from practice into the games. That’s one of the things we’re working on.”
Coach McCleery liked what he saw from his defense in holding the Cougars to a mere two shots on goal.
“We’ve got a lot of young kids, especially on defense, but they really stepped up and are doing a great job on defense, so our other players can be more aggressive.”