Red Dragons roll to win

Niles girls prove too much for Champion

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Niles’ Dana Spagnoletta (3) celebrates her goal with teammates during Friday’s 5-1 victory over Champion at Bo Rein Stadium. Emily Burnham, right, who scored two goals, is also pictured.

NILES — In dominating fashion, the Niles Red Dragons girls soccer team defeated the Champion Golden Flashes, 5-1.

It was tough from the start for Champion (0-1) as it struggled to control the ball in Niles (1-0) end.

Niles worked with the ball for a lot of the first half in the Flashes zone and it resulted in quite a bit of shots and chances.

“We are a relatively new, young team,” Champion coach Stephanie Tice said. “We have some new girls in new positions and we were missing one of our key starters. I think that the girls that I put in new positions, although they weren’t comfortable in those positions, they stepped up and tried to do what I asked of them.”

The Red Dragons scored about 10 minutes into the first half. Kenzie Johnston scored her first of two goals on a pass from Emily Burnham for a 1-0 lead.

It didn’t take long for the Red Dragons to score again as Burnham scored her first goal of the game on a beautiful pass from Alyssa Steffy for a 2-0 lead.

“It’s a new system we started this year. I’m a new coach here and we play a very attacking style. We are compacting space more than we did before,” Niles coach Scott MacMillan said. “They had the jitters. We graduated a tremendous seven seniors from last year, so it’s a small rebuild. Once they broke the glass, they took a deep breath and settled into their game.”

The onslaught wasn’t over for Niles. In the last 10 minutes of the first half, Dana Spagnoletta scored unassisted to give Niles a 3-0 lead going into halftime.

Despite Champion’s continuing pressure in the second half, Niles continued to outplay. Burnham and Johnston both scored again for their second goals of the game. Champion’s Abby White scored the Golden Flashes lone goal.

“Niles is a great team. We like to put teams like that on our schedule because we know they will challenge us,” Tice said. “We don’t put teams on our schedule that we know we can beat. We want to battle and learn from it.”

Tice also said despite the loss, she was pleased with getting many younger girls valuable playing time this early in the year.

“If you leave a team around too long, they start believing they’re going to beat you and it’s going to be a game. The first five minutes, you have to win the game,” MacMillan said. “Today, unfortunately, we didn’t get it done that quickly. Champion played hard and very physical. They are going to have a nice year.”

MacMillan said the key to their success is playing each minute like it is the last minute.