STERLING – Bad weather cost the Sterling girls soccer team two games and a tournament in the past week.
Being grounded wasn’t entirely a bad thing for the Golden Warriors, who used the down time to fine-tune some of their flaws leading up to Tuesday’s match with LaSalle-Peru.
The work Sterling put in was good enough to help it get its first win in nine matches, holding off the Cavaliers 4-3 at the Roscoe Eades soccer pitch.
Ellie Gasso took just 1 minute, 37 seconds to make good on the week’s worth of fixing. She scored the match’s first goal, advancing 50 yards flanked by a pair of Cavs defenders and booting in her shot from 10 yards out.
The goal was Sterling’s third of the year, and gave the Golden Warriors (1-7-1, 1-0 NIB-12 West) their first lead of the season. In the following 78 minutes, Sterling doubled its season’s goal total.
“At practice, we’ve really been working on getting open for each other and keeping the possession,” Gasso said. “We weren’t being selfish with our shots, and we found the open man, and that really worked for us tonight.”
Gasso also scored at the BarbFest Tournament last month, and had been Sterling’s primary go-to person up front. Kerry Mullen became another reliable forward Tuesday, scoring a hat trick to take over as the team’s leading scorer.
“It really gave us some time to think about what was holding us back,” Sterling coach Alexandra Miller said. “We had a lot of possession play, and that’s something we’ve been focusing on.
“Finally, all of the pieces that we’ve been working on came together this game, and we saw what we can do. Now it’s just a matter of doing it more often.”
Mullen gave Sterling a 2-0 lead in the ninth minute, but the Cavs (3-3-1, 0-1) came back with goals from Gabi Sawin (12’) and Mya Hewitt (33’) to force a 2-2 tie at halftime.
“It’s just taken some time to figure out each other’s strengths,” Mullen said. “We knew we had some good people at the beginning of the season, but we just couldn’t seem to fit the puzzle pieces together quite right to get a win.”
Much like the start of the match, it took less than 2 minutes for Sterling to start out strong after halftime. Gasso found Mullen with a cross, and Mullen kicked through a hole to break the tie.
Mullen got her hat trick on a 5-yard chip-in off a Sierra Sotelo assist in the 68th minute.
“Ellie was a big help,” Mullen said. “I just saw a big gap between a couple of defenders, and I was pretty sure that I could pop it right into the corner. A lot more luck than skill.”
“She had three [goals], there had to be some skill,” replied Gasso.
Sterling out-shot L-P 9-7 in the first half, with most shots coming on target (8-6). The second half was much quieter, with just five overall shots among both teams. Hewitt earned a brace in the 79th minute, but the Cavs couldn’t come up with a final equalizer.
Lea Seiquist made seven saves in goal for the Cavs. Holly Drew made five stops for Sterling.
“We wanted to make sure we kept our intensity up the whole game,” Gasso said. “A lot of times we’ll start off really strong, and then let up at some point. We wanted to make sure that, even if the ball was on our defensive half, we were playing as a team and keeping the intensity high.”
Sterling 4, LaSalle-Peru 3
Star of the game: Kerry Mullen, Sterling, hat trick (9’, 42’, 68’)
Key performers: Mya Hewitt, L-P, 2 goals (33’, 79’); Ellie Gasso, Sterling, goal (2’), 2 assists
Up next: Sterling at Geneseo, 4:30 p.m. Thursday