Girls soccer: Dixon takes control to notch win over Rock Island

Duchesses dominate possession to defeat Rocks in nonconference game at home

Dixon’s Madeline McLane plays the ball against Rock Island’s Kampbell Allen Friday, April 12, 2024 in Dixon.

DIXON – Continuous pressure on the defense and several scoring opportunities turned into a 2-1 nonconference win for Dixon on Friday afternoon against Rock Island at A.C. Bowers Field.

The Duchesses (7-5) controlled possession all game long and managed to find the net with two of their 12 shots on goal to notch their fourth straight win.

“I feel like we’re hitting some momentum, and we’re working really well together. We all get along well, and I feel like that shows on the field,” said junior Leah Stees, whose two assists gave her the team lead for the season.

“We always go into the game confident, yet humble at the same time, because we just know that if we try our best and go out there and do what we need to do, we’ll play well,” added junior Arielle Tefiku, who converted on Stees’ corner kick in the 23rd minute to give Dixon a 1-0 lead.

“We just need to do our jobs, get to the spots we need to and execute when we have chances.”

A few of those chances went by the wayside – the Duchesses had the ball in front of the Rock Island goal at least three times in the first half and couldn’t get enough of a touch on the ball to find the net – but they were relentless and aggressive in attacking the goal.

On their third corner kick of the half, Stees sent the ball into the box from the left side. It rattled around a between a few feet, and Tefiku connected on it with enough force to push it past the Rock Island keeper for a 1-0 lead with 16:15 left in the first half.

“It’s a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Tefiku said. “We’re always taught that you’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so if you see that ball, you go for it. It was right there, and I just tried my best to not do too much, just make the shot.”

“I always just aim [the corner kick] for the 6-yard box, and I know that someone’s going to pressure the ball in there and fight for it,” Stees said. “Arielle did, and it was a beautiful goal.”

Dixon’s Kailey Helfrich handles the ball in front of Rock Island’s Brigitte Nininahazwe Friday, April 12, 2024 in Dixon.

Rock Island (1-8) tied it just before halftime, as a counterattack turned into a penalty kick after a takedown in the box. Rocks junior Olivia Samuelson punched it past Dixon keeper Zoey Williams with 2:38 left before the break.

But the Duchesses came out after halftime and controlled the ball again, just missing on a couple more opportunities before retaking the lead.

In the 53rd minute, Stees pushed the ball up the right side and angled a perfect pass across the front of the goal toward the left post. Carlie Cook sped past a Rock Island defender and toed it between the post and the diving Rock’ keeper for a 2-1 lead with 26:16 left in the game.

“I was really nervous, but I’ve always been told to crash the goal no matter what. I was ready for it, and I was in the spot where I should have been and I made the shot,” Cook said. “I really didn’t think I’d be able to get it between the goalie and the post, but I squeezed it through.”

“I was trying to cross it. I was hoping it would get there and it worked out well,” Stees said. “Carlie was right where I wanted her and she did just what I wanted her to do. I saw the goalie moving across to try and get it, but Carlie is really fast, so I knew she would get to it. It was a great finish.”

“They caught us sleeping on the back post there and snuck it in, and it was just right place, right time for them,” Rock Island coach Zach Vroman said.

Dixon’s Maggie Van Sickle and Rock Island’s Olivia Samuelson battle for the ball Friday, April 12, 2024 in Dixon.

Dixon outshot Rock Island 19-6, including 10-1 in the second half. Shots on goal were 12-5 in favor of the Duchesses, and the Rocks didn’t have a shot on frame after halftime.

“I feel like we’re definitely a lot more confident after that first goal, and I think we start to go upfield more and start to be more offensive,” Stees said. “It definitely gives us motivation moving throughout the game when we get the lead.”

The Rocks made nine saves in goal, while Williams stopped four shots for the Duchesses. Dixon’s back row played solid defense, and Maggie Van Sickle and Emily Smith led an effective all-around effort in the midfield.

As the Duchesses finished off a 3-0 week and notched their fifth win in the last six games, Cook and her teammates feel like they’re starting to hit their stride.

“We were a little nervous at the beginning, but then we pulled through and worked as a team, played a good game, and it worked out well,” Cook said.

Dixon’s CJ Frey boots the ball upfield against Rock Island Friday, April 12, 2024 in Dixon.

For the Rocks, It was another game where Vroman saw his team compete hard and gain more valuable experience against a strong opponent.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’re continuing to improve everyday. There were some things that we did pretty well today. Obviously, marking [Dixon’s offensive players] was not one of them,” he said. “We’ve just got to be more aggressive. We came out and were kind of going through the motions, and it hurt us twice. When we sleepwalk through the first 10 minutes of each half, it hurts us.

“But we’re going to back and learn from it, and we’re going to improve.”

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