Girls Soccer: Meeghan Smith fuels Loyola past Hersey at Pepsi Showdown
Updated: April 12, 2012 8:53PM
Meeghan Smith made her return not only valuable but necessary. Playing in her second game after a series of injuries caused her to miss five games, the Loyola senior forward is another skilled and dangerous offensive playmaker in coach Craig Snower’s arsenal.
Smith scored a goal and assisted sophomore forward Margaret Walker on a second score as the No. 7 Ramblers scored twice in the first half for a 2-0 victory over No. 16 Hersey in a second-round Pepsi Showdown game Thursday in Glenview.
Loyola advances to meet rival New Trier in the second quarterfinal Saturday at Toyota Park in Schaumburg.
Smith’s play was magnified by the absence of junior forward Maddie Hartmann. “You see what she does for us,” Snower said of Smith.
Smith collaborated with Walker in the 10th minute of the first half for a beautiful goal that gave the Ramblers (10-1-1) the advantage. Recovering a deflected ball, Smith pirouetted and advanced the ball down the left sideline where she nudged a ball that Walker glanced past the Huskies’ keeper.
“I was able to make a move and pass the ball into the box to Margaret and she made a great play,” Smith said. “Meeghan did the hard part, I was just doing my job,“ Walker said.
The early scores proved decisive.
Smith gave the Ramblers a critical two-goal cushion she blasted in a ball inside the near post in the 33rd minute of the first half. “That was probably the best team we’ve played this year, and it was obviously very important to get the two goals in the first half,” Smith said.
The two-goal advantage enabled the Ramblers to play a more defensive-oriented game in the second half. “That’s a great team,” Snower said of the Huskies. “That’s the first team we’ve played this year where we did not dominate or even control the majority of possession time,” he said.
The Ramblers’ rangy and athletic backline helped neutralize the Huskies’ dynamic sister combination of senior Nicole Gierman and sophomore Lauren Gierman. “My biggest concern coming in was [Lauren] Gierman making a cannon shot from about midfield,”
Loyola star junior defender Cory Burns shadowed Lauren Gierman. “She’s a great player, and we just wanted to limit her and not let her control the ball or get comfortable setting up her shots,” Burns said.
Hersey (9-3-2) controlled possession but Loyola prevented them from stringing together extended possessions to mount any serious scoring threats. Lauren Gierman twice had free kicks that accounted for the best scoring chances. “The seize and height on the backline presented some problems,” Hersey coach Brad Abel said.
“Though we did a good job of possessing the ball, we had problems penetrating their final third and creating strong scoring opportunities inside the box.”