After Moore League Co-Offensive Player of the Year Courtney Cummings graduated from Millikan this past offseason, there were questions surrounding whether or not the Rams would be able to keep the same goal scoring efficiency that they had last season. However, in Tuesday night’s Moore League opener at Vets the Rams more than exceeded expectations, beating rivals Lakewood 8-0, behind an exceptional performance from forward Sierra Sythe.
Sythe got the Rams off to a hot start, scoring twice in the opening five minutes, and giving Millikan a comfortable lead to build on throughout the match.
“They were really important,” said Sythe when asked about the impact of her two early goals. “We wanted to come out strong and show that we still have a really strong team from last year. We also looked to get up early and stop any efforts from them scoring or making it a close game.”
In his praise for Sythe’s performance, Millikan head coach Tino Nuñez explained, “I thought she got on the ball and attacked them really well. We know what Sierra brings to the table, and we know how dangerous she can be going forward.”
Sythe wasn’t alone in this offensive outburst, as Audrey Stewart and Emmalee Ekblad both had two second half goals, equaling Sythe as the trio led the team in scoring.
“Players like Audrey and Emmalee have been doing a good job whether or not they start or come off the bench,” said Nuñez. “They’ve been bringing in a lot of energy, and both of them got two goals so credit to them.”
Throughout the first half the Rams looked to attack down both wings. Particularly the left side, where through balls from Millikan’s Emma Arkus helped Sythe get in behind the Lakewood defense, and create chances for her fellow teammates.
The562.org on Twitter: “Sierra Sythe had the first two goals for Millikan in the big win over Lakewood pic.twitter.com/6T8MgMXlhr / Twitter”
Sierra Sythe had the first two goals for Millikan in the big win over Lakewood pic.twitter.com/6T8MgMXlhr
“The plan was to get the ball wide,” said coach Nuñez. “We knew they’d have numbers in the middle, so we figured if we could go out wide, stretch them out, and get isolated on the outside, we could create a lot of chances that way.”
Crosses also came in from the right side for the Rams, like in the 5th minute when Millikan’s Alissey Fang assisted Sythe’s second goal by finding her with a great low cross to the back post. This assist was just one of Fang’s many great passes on Tuesday night.
From a defensive standpoint, the Rams utilized a high press in order to put Lakewood’s backline under pressure throughout the game.
“We’ve been working on high pressing a lot, so we knew how we wanted to come out,” said Sythe. “We wanted to come out strong and show aggressiveness, so it was a testament to what we’ve been doing at practice. We knew that if we pressed as a group, we’d be able to get good goal scoring opportunities, and I think that’s what we did.”
Additional goal contributions for Millikan also came from the Rams bench, as Aaliyah Showe and Mya Delaney both came on towards the end of the first half, and both ended up helping each other get on the score sheet.
In the dying minutes of the first half, Delaney’s ball over the top of a failed Lakewood offsides trap, found Showe for an easy finish, and Millikan’s third goal of the match. The pair later linked up again towards the end of the match, but this time it was Showe doing the assisting, and Delaney doing the finishing, for the Rams’ final goal of the match.
“I think it’s good for everyone to get those goal scoring opportunities in the games before we play Poly and Wilson,” said Sythe. “Having everyone get some confidence and get a goal on the score sheet, really helps the team morale.”
Even in a tough loss for Lakewood, the Lancers still saw some solid performances from their backline. Centerbacks Victoria Aguilar and Jeissa Moran were a large part of this, as the pair made a number of impressive clearances, and also blocked a number of shots, in order to keep the score at 2-0 for a large portion of the first half.
Lancers goalkeeper Kayley Miller was also a bright spot for the Lancers, especially when considering the number of shots that the Rams took. Over the course of the match, Miller made six excellent saves, four of which helped keep the game close in the first half.
Looking ahead, Millikan (4-0, 1-0) has their eyes set on a big Moore League clash with Long Beach Poly (1-1, 0-1), next Tuesday. The Jackrabbits lost to Wilson 1-0 on Tuesday night.
Before this match however, the Rams will resume league play on Thursday afternoon, when they take on Compton at home. Lakewood’s next league match will take place next Tuesday, when the Lancers travel to Jordan.