HOWLAND - Starting a tough eight-day stretch on Saturday, Howland girls soccer coach Joe Megyesi preached to his players that they needed a good performance against Lakeview at home.
Along with the match against the Bulldogs, the Tigers have crucial All-American Conference, American Division matchups with Austintown Fitch and Canfield early next week, rounding it off with a showdown against Warren G. Harding.
It seems the Tigers received his message, jumping out to a three-goal advantage after 25 minutes and never looking back in a 5-1 rout of Lakeview at Howland Middle School.
"I've been pushing the girls all week long because we needed some kind of momentum builder going into Austintown on Monday and Canfield on Wednesday," Megyesi said. "We had a real close call with Niles. So, I had to get them back and focused. I think with a home game, the girls wanted to come out like I know they could for us."
Much of Howland's (7-1) offensive success came through the combination of senior Jordan Entler and junior Jenna Dorchock, who were involved in all five of the Tigers' goals.
Dorchock scored the team's first goal in the third minute after taking the ball off a Lakeview (8-3-1) defender on the edge of the penalty area. Then, in the 12th minute, Entler received a pass from senior Heather Stinson along the right side of the box and chipped her shot over Lakeview goalkeeper Miranda Meffe.
Entler proceeded to assist Howland's last three goals with a cross on Kayla Watson's goal in the 25th minute and two through passes to Ashley Seen in the 45th minute and to Dorchock for the junior's second goal in the 48th minute.
Megyesi moved Entler from outside midfielder to forward recently, and based on Saturday's performance, it has seemed to pay off.
"Me and Jenna have been playing for about 10 years, together, so I think that started from Day One," Entler said. "Being together for so long, we know what each other is going to do, so we can already tell it in our head where that person's going to go and pass it. I know she's going to be there, and she knows that I'm going to be there for her."
To go along with the offensive outburst, Megyesi said he was pleasantly surprised with Howland's defense.
The Tigers lost senior stopper Hope Sutton, to a broken nose before the match, but the defense managed to hold Alli and Abby Pavlik to zero goals and allowed freshman Rachel Braunegg to score Lakeview's lone goal on a breakaway in the 34th minute.
"I thought we were going to have a hard time holding them down, especially with the field conditions," Megyesi said. "With one slip or something like that, Alli (Pavlik) could break loose. We talked about marking, so we did pretty well."
Not that Howland could completely stop the Bulldogs offense, especially when Lakeview coach Shawn Varley switched from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 half an hour into the match.
In the 45th minute, Abby Pavlik had a penalty kick that Howland goalkeeper Monica Kotyuk blocked with a dive to her left, and then later in the second half, Alli Pavlik had two point-blank shots stopped.
"We didn't have a lot of opportunities today - maybe three, four quality opportunities," Varley said. "If we bury a couple of those and fix a couple of defensive mistakes that we made, it could have been a little bit closer, but Howland's Howland.
"Howland is not going to give you free reign at the ball."
Now, the Tigers can turn their sights to the crucial conference matches early in the week. While Fitch and Canfield are different from Lakeview, Entler said the team can use this outing as a basis for getting through the week.
"We're definitely going to use this (win)," Entler said. "This is a preparation game for those two games, and we know we have to be strong just as we were with Lakeview. Hopefully, we'll come out with a win for both."