Friday was far from an ideal day to spend outside, but Geneva and Kaneland will take it.
Fighting off their various degrees of cabin fever, Geneva received two huge scoring plays from senior Jenna Dominguez to edge Kaneland 2-1.
“We’ve been training outside for the last week and that really helped us compose ourselves,” Dominguez said. “It felt good to get that cold air into our lungs while running around and to connect with one another. We’re still not fully connecting yet, but we’re getting there and we’re going to be really strong this year.”
It wasn’t so much strength as her ability to create that Dominguez displayed to allow the Vikings to jump ahead 1-0. She missed a penalty kick just eight minutes into the action that the Vikings were awarded when Stephanie Howe got taken down in the penalty box. But Dominguez didn’t miss out on an opportunity to score with 4:30 left before halftime.
Gathering the ball from Annie Brolley, Dominguez slid through Kaneland defenders and fired a shot. Kaneland goalkeeper Emma Ball was able to get her hands on the shot and deflect it, but it still slid past her.
Geneva (1-0) finally got the insurance goal it was chasing with 11:51 left in the game when Howe lofted a pass into the wind which Dominguez was able to chase down and pound into the back of the net.
“It was a good ball by Steph [Howe] up top and me and Steph and Alana [Rawls] all worked well together,” Dominguez said. “Steph had great composure there and it was a good enough ball that I just needed to get on the end of it.”
Kaneland (0-2) received a huge break when Geneva goalkeeper Katie Montgomery picked up a pass from one of her teammates, which resulted in the Knights receiving an indirect free kick from five yards out.
With a Geneva wall filling the front of the net, Kaneland’s first try was denied but the Vikings were penalized for encroachment. Afforded a second chance, Taylor Carlson tapped a pass to Rachael Lutter, who scored with 9:31 remaining to make it a 2-1 game.
Lutter had an opportunity to tie the game in the final minute, but her free kick from 25 yards away went right to Montgomery – who smothered it on one hop.
“Soccer is a crazy game and things like that happen but you can’t let it get you down,” Geneva senior midfielder Sydney Gratz said. “We just tried to keep the intensity high after that and keep positive. When we do that, good things happen.”
Kaneland created some scoring chances throughout the afternoon, but found itself focusing more on stopping the Vikings then firing away on the other end.
“We’re just getting used to being on the big field again after being stuck inside a gym,” Lutter said. “And I think fitness is playing a big part right now, but I think everyone stepped up to the plate and did what they had to do to give the performance that we did. Everyone handled their responsibilities correctly today.”
With eight seniors returning from a 12-win team, the Vikings expect big things this spring.
“I love that we have such a big senior group,” Howe said. “It’s really helped us build that connection, and with our senior leadership I think we’ll be more cohesive this year. It’s great. I’m glad we’ve had these last few years to put this together.”
If their debut was a sign, the Vikings are going to be dangerous on the attack.
“It’s a good group and they fought hard and created a lot of offense which is good,” Geneva coach Megan Owens said. “We’re going to score some good goals this year.”
Said Gratz, “We’re feeling good, working hard and have talent. Everybody better watch out because Geneva is going to go far this year.”
Kaneland expects to go places as well, although it came up short this week against Batavia and now Geneva.
“We’ve only been out twice so our expectations are to just play as hard as we can and hope for the best right now,” Knights coach Scott Parillo said. “I think if we can finally get outside we’ll be able to improve and we’ll get a lot better.”