Niles girls soccer too much for Struthers

NILES — Last Saturday, Niles’ girls soccer coach Scott MacMillan thought it would be a good idea to take a three-hour road trip to Columbus to play an unfamiliar team. Preparation-wise he felt his team needed it.

“We hit a grass field,” MacMillan said. “It was not a culture they were ready for. Plus the three hours on the bus and they all went to Alliance the night before for the football game. The girls are a different animal. Stay away from Saturday mornings.

“I wanted to create a playoff experience for them so they’d get used to getting on a bus and playing in a hostile environment, in an environment they don’t know, against a team they don’t know. It worked.”

That experience carried over to their game Monday night against the Struthers Wildcats at Bo Rein Stadium in which they came away with an 11-0 victory.

“Our game plan was to connect passes, our feet to each other and also to separate from the defensive players to create some space,” MacMillan said. “Those were the two main points and I feel like we did that. It wasn’t about scoring tonight. I didn’t want to do that.

“Struthers is in the building of a culture. Their soccer culture is in its infancy and they’re trying. The last thing I want to do is to make another program not succeed.”

The Red Dragons (5-2) finished with three players scoring two goals apiece: Emily Burnham, Emily Petillo, and Katie Gallo.

“Our leading scorer is Emily Burnham,” MacMillian said. “She’s just very fast. She’s a junior. She’s coming into her own. She’s starting to understand what her role is. That’s where I need to get her within the next week or so.”

The Red Dragons had 30 shots on goal, but it was their defense that was dominant all night, limiting Struthers (1-4) to no shots on goal.

“Defensively, I tried to keep them engaged by talking,” MacMillan said. “We were supposed to swing. I try to teach my players if you can’t score, do you see someone that can. If not, we have to change the point of attack. At that point, swing it around.

“We swung it around a lot and tried to drop it into our keeper a lot and engage our midfield to connect to the thirds of the field through passing instead of running.”

The no shots on goal stat line becomes more impressive because Niles features a backline with a freshman keeper, two freshmen in the back, a sophomore, and a junior.

“We’re very young,” MacMillan said. “We’ve lost a lot of talent in the last two years. We’re not in a rebuild; a reload. We’re young, but they’re starting to field the idea that they’re now that group. They have to become that group.”

After playing Poland and Jefferson in their next two games, the Red Dragons begin the second part of their season as they try to figure out what will work come tournament time.

“The second half of the season, we try to get our rotation,” MacMillian said. “First half I fill it out and try to see what’s going on. Now we start for our rotation for the tournament because ultimately that’s what matters.”

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