by BRYAN EVERSON
The Falcons caught a bad break or two in its pre-spring break action to kick off the season, but the sun came out long enough in their return to play Monday.
Rochester found a pair of goals before halftime, and replicated the scoring again afterward to defeat Clawson 4-0 and notch their first victory of 2017 on the road.
“The first couple of games, we’ve had that quality, it’s just now that we’ve gotten established with a young team, they’re starting to communicate with each other and know what kind of passes they want to have given to them,” Rochester coach Dustin Coleman said. “It makes for easier build-up play in the middle.”
The ample space to operate was apparent almost immediately and chances presented themselves in bunches for last year’s OAA White champions. They materialized in the form of two well-converted chances in the opening 40 minutes, the first from over 20 yards out by freshman Lexi Czerwien, and the follow-up from junior Gabby Gilmore.
“We created some space for [Lexi], but in the middle of the field she up and ripped it right on target,” Coleman said. “It went right above the goalie, a fantastic hit. The second one was similar, more of a build-up play. Gabi ended up giving herself a little bit of space and [shot] from just outside the 18-yard box with the outside of her foot and it went top-right corner.”
The Falcons, who lost a majority of their starters to graduation, continued to accumulate chances in the second half. One of just two returning seniors, Gabi Moote, nearly delivered a goal with one of several free kick opportunities in the first 15 minutes after the break. The Trojans managed to subdue the scoring temporarily, but Rochester (1-2-0) continued to control at least two-thirds of possession, and eventually another underclassman delivered. Kaitlyn Ducharme forced the Clawson goalkeeper to make a diving stop just over midway through the half, and four minutes later, fellow sophomore Jillian Lekosiotis got another chance that came from a scrum for the ball following a corner kick that she converted into the upper-left corner to advance the lead to 3-0.
Ducharme wouldn’t wait too long before getting one of her own that came in fine fashion. A sequence that began with sophomore left back Sarah Kable working her way up the wide area into the attack and feeding the ball into the final third led to some tidy interplay by the Falcons attackers before Ducharme fired a shot from just over 20 yards distance with under nine minutes left to put a bow on the scoring.
Ducharme had several opportunities to make it a brace, including a step-over technique that nearly led to a goal with three minutes remaining, but the Falcons would have to settle for four. Coleman noted that the rate of conversion was something he would’ve like to be slightly better, knowing the room for margin will be slim in league play.
“Coming up into the OAA Red with a young team, they need these games where they can gain confidence and have those opportunities,” Coleman said. “I’m a little upset that we didn’t get more shots on frame, but their coach did a fantastic job of responding at halftime, and it frustrated our attack for a good 25, 30 minutes of the second half [before scoring again].”
“You have to capitalize on opportunities,” he added. “You’re not going to have 16 opportunities against Troy Athens, Adams and Stoney. You’re going to have four or five — and so are they — and whoever capitalizes on them is going to be the winner.”
“Coming up into the OAA Red with a young team, they need these games where they can gain confidence and have those opportunities. I’m a little upset that we didn’t get more shots on frame, but their coach did a fantastic job of responding at halftime, and it frustrated our attack for a good 25, 30 minutes of the second half [before scoring again].”
Still, a young team from the spine to the scorers that’s improving game-by-game bodes well for the Falcons’ chances.
“For having a young team, we’re building together,” Coleman said. “Every game we’ve played so far, we’ve gotten better with combination play, who goes up when and just that intuition of creating space and building when we need to.”