Challenge accepted

HOWLAND – Despite the fact his team had taken 18 shots in the first half, Howland coach Joe Megyesi didn’t think it was enough.

He addressed the issue at the half and the Tigers responded with two goals in toppling Boardman, 3-1, Wednesday night at Lombard Field.

“To be perfectly honest, I didn’t feel we were aggressive enough,” Megyesi said. “At halftime, we had a little talk and I got on them about it. Either they wanted to win or play like we have in the past and lose in the last couple of seconds.

“We needed to get a cushion. We had to go for it, take more shots. That’s what made it work out pretty good. I give all the kudos to Boardman. They had a couple of individuals hurt and they really played us tough.”

Sara Ciletti knocked a shot into the back left corner of the net from outside the box as she headed toward the corner to put the Tigers (8-6, 5-3 All-American Conference) up, 2-0, with 35:20 to play in the second half.

“After the talk at halftime, I put them under pressure because I expected them to score more,” Megyesi said. “(After Ciletti’s goal) they got more comfortable. They made more runs and worked the ball together.”

Nearly eight minutes later, Ashley Chambers tapped in Kendyl Buckley’s cross after it sailed over a teammate’s attempt at a header to make it 3-0.

“(That goal) was very important,” Megyesi said. “As a matter of fact, we’ve been working on that the last couple of days at practice. We want girls to crash and clean it up.”

Boardman was struggling at that point.

“I honestly think they took advantage of our fatigue,” MacMillan said. “We had six subs when the game started and, by the time we were done, we had one. We were down to four at halftime. There was only so much we could do. We didn’t stop playing hard and I’m proud of that. We had girls hurt and couldn’t take them off the field. Our numbers just got lower and lower.”

Bella Merlo notched the only goal after her shot from 20 yards out hit the cross bar before ricocheting off the goalkeeper’s head into the net with 24:25 left in the first half.

“They played direct,” MacMillan said. “They got the ball and kicked it 40 yards up the field. It wasn’t small ball. They just played the long ball. That seemed like what the game was going to be.

“By playing long, they were able to push so many numbers up against us that when we tried to possess it, they were able to drop nine players back behind the ball.”

The strategy was a direct result of something Megyesi saw in the Spartans’ defense.

“I look at how they’re playing defense,” he said. “We have some fast girls, and any time we can play it long over the top and get those girls in a one-on-one situation, we’re going to do it.”

Boardman (2-11-1, 1-7) had trouble getting into an offensive rhythm as a result.

“Any time you try to play possession against the long ball, it seems like it eliminates the flow of the game,” MacMillan said. “We had no chance to possess the ball and put 10-15 touches together.”

The Spartans tallied a goal as Skylar Bryant tapped home a loose ball from right in front of the post with two seconds to play in the match.