JACKSON — Opportunistic.
That word perfectly describes Jackson’s offense in a nutshell on Tuesday. It didn’t have much offensive rhythm, but the chances it did have, it made the most of it.
Through the struggles, it had a pair of chances late in the first half, and Sydney Fain didn’t miss as she connected on two goals to help lead the Ironladies past Hillsboro 2-1 in FAC action.
“This is such a huge win for us. Brings us one step closer to a possible FAC title and it’s big for the tournament draw,” Jackson’s Mattie Walburn said. “Gets us ready to take on Chillicothe now.”
The victory also means a four-game winning streak for the Ironladies, who sit tied for second in the FAC alongside Hillsboro and behind Chillicothe.
“Our energy was so much better than the first time we played Hillsboro,” Walburn said. “The bus ride was long and just bad, not that we’re blaming our performance the first time on that because we didn’t play very well. It was completely different this time, and what a win we earned.”
Hillsboro’s passing was its strength, and it only seemed to improve with the help of turf as opposed to the grass field it typically plays on.
The speed of the ball worked early to its advantage as Brooke Ulicny dribbled by a pair of defenders and struck with the left foot, connecting with the bottom right corner of the net to put the Indians ahead 1-0 with 30:34 remaining.
For much of the first half, the ball was constantly at the feet of an Indian player, despite not getting off too many shot attempts. However, they controlled the pace of the game, and their defense was locking down any attempts for Jackson to cross midfield with possession.
That was until there was seven minutes left in the half, and Jackson finally got its chance.
With the ball at the feet of Jenna Lewis, she turned and somehow through the pile found Fain who connected on a goal to tie the game 1-1.
“That goal changed everything and we started to pick up our energy,” Fain said. “I saw the opportunity to score once I had the ball, and I was determined to go and take that shot.”
But Fain didn’t wait much longer to make her impact felt again. Less than a minute later, the ball bounced with a spinning rotation that the Hillsboro defender couldn’t quite figure out.
Fain continued to stay with the play, and ended up with the ball now at her feet, so she struck again for her second goal to put the Ironladies ahead 2-1 going to halftime.
“(Jackson) Coach (Jon Groff) always tells us to run your body through the ball even if you don’t think you’ll get it,” Fain said. “There’s always a chance a player might mess up and that leads to your opportunity. That sequence was one of those instances where she slipped up, I had the ball and just took the shot.”
Although both goals were enough for the win in the end, Hillsboro put the pressure on in the second half and fired off 15 shots.
Most of the shots were on target and had the potential to be the equalizing goal, but Walburn wasn’t having it.
After just two saves in the first half, she came through in the clutch with 10 saves in the second half as the last line of defense to ultimately ice the game.
“Hillsboro is a great passing time and they cross the ball really well,” Walburn said. “I worked in practice a couple days ago about being on my toes to keep alert and be ready for everything. It really helped a lot in this one.”
“She saves us a lot,” Fain added with a smile.
Boys fall in close fashion
Although the girls tasted victory, lady luck wasn’t exactly on the boys’ side.
The Ironmen had some trouble stringing passes together and setting up their offense in the final third of the field, and only had three shot on goal attempts all night.
The lack of the offense led to a 1-0 loss to Hillsboro.
“Our back row played really well for being as young as they are,” Jackson coach Lee Lord said. “Three sophomores, freshman and a sophomore keeper, they played a great game and gave us a chance. But, we have to figure things out.”
Hillsboro’s Cohen Myers scored the lone goal of the game into the upper right corner with 30:58 left in the first half to give it the win.