Nighthawks fall in inaugural contest

Nighthawks fall in inaugural contest

National Park ran up against a steamroller in its inaugural women’s soccer contest Sunday afternoon at Tommy J. Holt Memorial Field at Joe C. Reese Stadium, falling 7-0 to the Trojans of Seminole State (Oklahoma).

The Nighthawks drew the top team from the NJCAA Division I Region 2 for their first-ever contest, and despite a one-sided match, head coach Kevin Tello said that he saw some positives.

“We knew that kind of going into it, so we kind of had a game plan to prevent it getting ugly,” he said. “We’re still a new team. None of them have chemistry together, and we told them, we’re gonna fix it. When is kind of their decision — if we fix it next game or three games on the road or next year. But we’re definitely have the core group that next year or later on the season, we could definitely put on a performance for some some fans here.”

The Nighthawks got the opening kick, but the Trojans, who returned 13 from last year’s squad that reached the NJCAA Division I Women’s Soccer Championship tournament, quickly turned up their offense, taking two quick shots in the first three minutes before sophomore forward Mahayla Benedict, in the seventh minute, corralled the ball around 10 yards from the goal and tapped it over the head of NPC goalkeeper Brooklyn Thormann, who was sliding forward for the stop.

Gallery: National Park vs. Seminole State, 08-22-21

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The Trojans continued to press, allowing the Nighthawks less than a minute on the Seminole State end of the pitch before the officials stopped the clock 16 minutes into the match to allow the players a water break due to the excessive heat.

“It was hot out here, and I mean, all of the girls on both sides gave good effort, did a good job, played hard and very clean game,” said Trojans head coach Dan Hill. “You know, both teams, I’m sure, want to clean some things up and play better, but it was definitely, you know, exciting to be here.”

After the break, the Nighthawks had another brief glimpse of the far end of the pitch before the Trojans continued their assault, taking eight shots, three on target, before freshman midfielder Kayci Faulkner got the ball past a diving Thormann. The dive led to Thormann being walked off the field, and Yesenia Vargas was moved into goal.

Vargas conceeded a goal in the 31st minute before making three saves in two minutes. A fourth save knocked the ball back into play in the 37th minute, allowing sophomore defender Demtria Wilson to get a foot on the ball and make it a 4-0 match with eight minutes to go.

Vargas made two more saves before Thormann returned to the box for the final four minutes of the half, making one save to bring her first-half tally to five saves.

“I thought the first half was definitely a little bit shocking, and it was shell-shocking for them,” Tello said. “At halftime and the water breaks, we made some adjustments, and I definitely feel like the second half, it was, it was a different game. It wasn’t exactly how we wanted to end the game, but we set our goals in to get better. I mean, I feel like they definitely accomplished those goals.”

The second half was played with a running clock, including the two water breaks, but the Nighthawks took advantage of some adjustments Tello made during the break, keeping the spread unchanged until Benedict picked up her brace in the 57th minute. Benedict powered in another shot from about 12 yards out, a high arcing ball that sailed into the top far corner of the net for the 5-0 lead.

Freshman defender Stormie Ramsey scored the sixth goal from 30 yards out on another high attempt in the top corner, and freshman forward Ayano Wyatt set the final with a 10-yard shot in the 83rd minute.

Hill was pleased with the win, but he said that there is still plenty for his team to improve on as the season progresses.

“We’ve got, you know, 13 girls back from last year’s group, and then we have a bunch of freshmen that are going to play a lot of minutes for us, too. So definitely a work in progress right now, but excited about the potential of the team for sure.”

Tello said that while he does not expect to see his team at the top of the table in its first year, he believes there is the potential that they reach the regional tournament.

“I definitely think we can fix a lot of these problems and be a middle-of-the-table team,” he said. “I’m not gonna go out and say we’re gonna win our region, but we can definitely make the regional tournament if we kind of fix some things here and there. And that’s one of the goals that we talked about in there. Like this is the competition that we would play in the regional tournament to make nationals. So if we fix a lot of things next, time we play them at their place, it could be a lot closer game.”

The Nighthawks travel to Clarksville Tuesday to face University of the Ozarks at 5 p.m. before both the women and men host Rose State College Thursday at Linden Park starting with the women’s game at 11 a.m..

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