A weekend doubleheader for the Panther SC U12 Girls White team brought further signs of improvement in the girls' play, but they were unfortunate only to be rewarded with a pair of narrow and frustrating losses for their considerable efforts.
On Saturday May 12th, the girls traveled to play the LaGrange Celtics Brigantes on a cool, wet and blustery day. After an even start to the game, during which both sides pressed forward but did not create any clear cut openings, the Panthers took the lead when Molly Schiltz drove in a shot to the near post after a typically strong run down the left wing and which the home keeper was unable to prevent from hitting the net.
The Panther girls took confidence from this lead and were beginning to assert themselves in the game when a breakaway attack resulted in a soft Penalty Kick award to the Celtics. Even their own supporters were surprised at the ref's call, with Morgan Bittner the player unfortunate to be penalized after making a hard but seemingly fair tackle in the box. The momentum that the two opposing players took into the 50-50 challenge appeared to have both falling to the ground after meeting at the ball and Morgan was very harshly called for a foul as they inadvertently collided while falling. The Celtics scored from the spot kick to even the game at 1-1.
The Panther girls appeared to be still settling again from the shock of the soft call when the Celtics mounted another attack and were unlucky to see a shot hit the upright and bounce out. But a few moments later, the momentum swing as a result of the PK call was confirmed when the Celtics edged ahead at 2-1, scoring on a rebound shot after Panther keeper Lauren Weber had made a fantastic diving save from the initial attempt.
The Panther girls recovered their poise sufficiently to mount further attacks on the home goal before half time, but shots from Ally Bentel and Molly Gustafson were off target.
The Panthers would have been hoping for a stronger start to the second half to get back in the game, but they fell further behind at 3-1 when the Celtics scored from a corner kick in the early minutes after the restart.
To their credit though, the PSC girls never felt out of the game and continued to push hard to get back into it. With Jenny Nunez breaking up attacks and driving forward from the middle at every opportunity and the speed of Molly Schiltz up top, the U12 White girls kept pressing forward. The defense of Hannah Houston, Ashley Bailey, Naia Brandt and Maggie Praska were handling attacks comfortably now and the Panthers were getting back on top.
Their renewed ascendency paid off when Molly Schiltz drove in a second goal from the left corner of the box to bring them close at 3-2 down.
The Panthers girls picked up the pace and continued to dominate the remaining 10 minutes. They came close to tying the game on a few occasions with shooting chances for Katlyn Selvig, Ally Bentel and Molly Schiltz, but ultimately they were left feeling like they deserved more than the resulting 3-2 loss at the whistle.
On Sunday, the U12 White team were on the road again at Team Elmhurst and again they made a strong start to the game. Early goals from Molly Gustafson and Jenny Nunez had them ahead 2-0, but despite continuing to play well and create openings they were unable to prevent the home team from coming back into the game at 2-2. Another contentious Penalty Kick was awarded against the PSC girls, this time the foul seemed clearly to have occurred outside the penalty area. And while the resulting spot kick was missed to give the Panther girls a well deserved reprieve, the home team added further goals in the second half to run out 4-2 winners in a game that the Panther girls had more than matched them in.