Sunday, October 25, 2020

Lady Rays Set Searing Start

Undefeated in First Week of Play

During the SJN game, striker Ellie Ball struggles to shed her defender. Photos by Jenny Cartwright

During the SJN game, striker Ellie Ball struggles to shed her defender. Photos by Jenny Cartwright

Coach Jim Watt called it before the season opener. You’re going to see some [hell for leather] charges down the field and a lot of crazy stuff in front of the [opponent’s] goal, he said. He projected that this would be the strongest team he had ever fielded. Right now, the Rays are the most wildly entertaining show in town. You don’t have to be a soccer aficionado to appreciate the dazzling and jaw dropping things they are doing on the field.

On November 13, MIA opened its season at Southwest Florida Christian Academy (SWFCA) in Ft. Myers. Down 0-1 at halftime, the offense didn’t get rolling until the second half when they scored four unanswered goals to post the Ray’s first ever opening day win. “[Freshman] Kirra Polley was a beast in goal,” said Coach Watt, “[Senior] Olivia Watt and [recently transferred sophomore] Savannah Heimerl controlled the midfield and the defense was awesome.” Polley was not to allow another goal for the rest of the week. “We all noticed how tired the other girls were. In the second half, they were asking their coach to be taken out,” noted senior defenseman, Danya Zarate, “For once we were thankful for all the intense running drills and Tabata (high intensity workouts of four minutes each) we have been doing for the past two weeks.”

Livvy Watt leads another charge downfield in the game against SJN.

Livvy Watt leads another charge downfield in the game against SJN.

Final stats: Ellie Ball, two goals, Hai- ley Cartwright, one goal and two assists, Anna Chamberlin, one goal, Lauren Faremouth, one assist.

Kirra Polley, on her way to a shutout, lines up for a goal kick in the SJN game.

Kirra Polley, on her way to a shutout, lines up for a goal kick in the SJN game.

On November 16, the Rays went over to St. John Neuman High School (SJN) in Naples. The game ended in a 0-0 tie, an example of an exceptionally strong defense smothering a strong offense. Many of the girls left the field feeling the game was more like a loss. The Rays peppered the goal with a steady drumbeat of shots (perhaps a couple dozen), either caught by the SJN goal keeper or just barely missing. Ellie Ball and Hailey Cartwright, the left and right wing strikers, were particularly frustrated. Their sprints to the net were often interrupted by SJN’s aggressive, clinging defense. SJN had a bigger problem at the other end of the field in the person of MIA goal keeper, Kirra Polley. “Polley was our MVP of the game,” said Coach Watt, “She made some key saves, which kept us in the game.” “The offense was in the right places at the right times,” said defenseman Danya Zarate, “the ball just wouldn’t go in.”

Jenna Palumbo starts a downfield attack after MIA defense breaks up another attack in the SWFCA game. Photos by Nancy Chamberlin

Jenna Palumbo starts a downfield attack after MIA defense breaks up another attack in the SWFCA game. Photos by Nancy Chamberlin

The home opener on November 16th at Winterberry Park saw more pyrotechnics from the Rays, who came away with a 4-1 win against nemesis, Community School (CS). The game was not as close as the score would suggest. It was played for the most part on the CS end of the field, with a steady stream of shots on goal by MIA’s slick passing offense. With Kirra Polley protecting the goal, the Rays defense played most of the game out near midfield. They broke up most of the CS attacks before they could reach Polley. The MIA defense allowed only two goals all week. Booming kicks by the defense led the mostly unstoppable MIA offense down the field on attack after attack. Midfielders, Livvy Watt, Lauren Faremouth and Savannah Heimerl led each charge, feeding the ball to MIA’s speedy strikers, Hailey Cartwright on the right side lines and Ellie Ball on the left. The results were brilliant, dribbling, crossing passes, and shots on goal. These five seem to know what each of the others is going to do and where they will be. “Our girls were in charge of the game immediately,” Coach Watt said, “We had slow starts in both SJN and SWFCA games, but not Community. We were mentally and physically better from the first whistle. It was a great win.”

Some fancy footwork by Savannah Hiemerl leaves a defender in the dust at SWFCA game.

Some fancy footwork by Savannah Hiemerl leaves a defender in the dust at SWFCA game.

In the SWFCA game, MIA defenders (from left) Kirra Polley, Liz Schultheis, Danya Zarate, Jenna Palumbo, and Savannah Heimerl stop an attack at MIA goal.

In the SWFCA game, MIA defenders (from left) Kirra Polley, Liz Schultheis, Danya Zarate, Jenna Palumbo, and Savannah Heimerl stop an attack at MIA goal.

Final stats: Savannah Heimerl, three goals (all penalty kicks, two from box, one from 60 feet); Hailey Cartwright, one goal (a sizzling grounder just inside the post); Olivia Watt, one assist.

Hailey Cartwright takes one of the dozens of team shots against SJN. All barely missed or were smothered by the goal keeper.

Hailey Cartwright takes one of the dozens of team shots against SJN. All barely missed or were smothered by the goal keeper.

Next game November 27 at Canterbury. Next home game, December 4 at Winterberry.

In CS game, Livvy Watt about to receive a downfield boomer from Savannah Hiemerl, which she will pass to the streaking Hailey Cartwright (left). Photo by Barry Gwinn

In CS game, Livvy Watt about to receive a downfield boomer from Savannah Hiemerl, which she will pass to the streaking Hailey Cartwright (left). Photo by Barry Gwinn

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