With the postseason set to start on June 1, the Litchfield Lady Panthers are playing some of their best soccer of the season. This past week, the LHS girls improved to 7-2 after scoring a trio of wins over some tough competition.
Monday’s game was the toughest of the three as the Lady Panthers defeated Hillsboro 3-2 to hand the Toppers their first conference loss of the season.
Litchfield would come out firing in the first half, with Izzy Ray setting up Maddie Diamond for a hard shot that found its way into the back of the net to give Litchfield a 1-0 lead.
After the initial salvo by the Panthers, Hillsboro took control of the pace and put several shots on net against Litchfield keeper Becky Painter. The Panthers’ senior stalwart answered the call though, making a couple good saves that kept the score at 1-0 at halftime.
Eight minutes into the second half the ball would be back in the Hillsboro end, with the Toppers struggling to clear it out of the zone. The ball would fall to the feet of Karly Kruse, who drilled a hard shot inside the right post to make it 1-0 in Litchfield’s favor.
Just four minutes later, Hillsboro answered. Layne Rupert took the ball down the right side and her defender to the end line. From there, the sophomore forward popped out and slotted home a shot to tie the game.
Hillsboro would have chances for the equalizer over the next 20 minutes, but Painter came up big for the Panthers on shots by Abigail Schreiber and Rupert.
Litchfield added an insurance goal with 8:37 remaining in the game on a hustle play by Olivia Mitchell. Maddie Diamond took a deep shot off the crossbar, which ricocheted high in the air. Mitchell crashed for the rebound and knocked the ball into the open goal for a 3-1 lead.
The insurance tally would prove to be an important one as Rupert scored less than 90 seconds later, putting in a shot after Sally Matson’s free kick found her on the right side of the goal.
Hillsboro would pelt Painter and the Litchfield defense with chance after chance in the final seven minutes, but were unable to get another goal as the Panthers claimed regular season bragging rights.
The momentum could be a factor in the postseason as the two rivals could face one another if they are successful in their first games. Hillsboro will play the winner of Carlinville versus Southwestern, while Litchfield takes on the winner of the Gillespie/Staunton tilt.
North Mac and Pana
The momentum of the win over Hillsboro carried the Panthers to two stellar performances in their next two games. On Wednesday, May 19, Litchfield dispatched North Mac (who had tied Hillsboro earlier this season) in a 6-0 shutout.
The Purple Panthers scored twice in the first half then dropped four more goals on the home team in the second 40 minutes to improve to 6-2 on the season.
Maddie Diamond scored twice and assisted on another goal for the Panthers, while Carly Favre, Madison Mix, Sofia Ray and Karly Kruse also had goals. Kruse also had an assist, as did Olivia Mitchell and Allison Marburger.
On Thursday, May 20, Litchfield picked up their fourth shutout of the year and third in four games with a 2-0 win over Pana.
The win improved Litchfield’s record to 7-2 on the season and 5-1 in the South Central Conference. They can keep their conference title hopes alive on Monday, May 24, if they can hand Roxana their first SCC loss of the season.
May 22 at Hillsboro
Litchfield 1 2 - 3
Hillsboro 0 2 - 2
Goals: Litchfield - Maddie Diamond 1, Olivia Mitchell 1, Karly Kruse 1; Hillsboro - Layne Rupert 2. Assists: Litchfield - Izzy Ray 1; Hillsboro - Sally Mattson 1.
Records: Litchfield (5-2, 4-1); Hillsboro (8-3-1, 4-2).
May 19 at Hillsboro
Litchfield 2 4 - 6
North Mac 0 0 - 0
Goals: Litchfield - Maddie Diamond 2, Carly Favre 1, Madison Mix 1, Sofia Ray 1, Karly Kruse 1.
May 20 at Litchfield
Pana 0 0 - 0
Litchfield 1 1 - 2
Records: Litchfield (7-2, 5-1).