LAKELAND — If there was a George Jenkins goal on Monday night, one thing was clear. Olivia Ireland had a hand — make that foot — in the scoring play.
Ireland had just one goal, the first, and officially just one assist, but she set up the next three goals in the Eagles’ 5-2 victory over Lake Wales on Monday night at Veterans Stadium, avenging a loss to the Highlanders last year.
“It was nice,” said Ireland, who missed a portion of last season with a concussion. “I enjoy our teamwork together and playing together. We did well moving the ball.”
Ireland’s goal came from practically out of nowhere. The ball came to her from Emily Giddens in space about 30 yards out to the left of Lake Wales’ goalkeeper Saraha Bourgett. With not pressure on her, Ireland launched a shot toward goal that went over Bourgett’s head and snuck under the crossbar for the game’s first goal in the ninth minute.
“I saw that Emily had the ball, so I decided to find the open space and get back so I could have the shot,” Ireland said. “I was trying to score from there because in warm-ups, I had a shot from that far and scored.”
Ireland had a knack of putting the ball in the right place, which she takes most of the corner kicks, and that knack was on display on the next two goals. The first came on a cornerkick. She sent the ball to the far corner and Hope Kaiser scored on a header to put the Eagles up 2-0.
The third goal showed off the Eagles’ ball skills in front of net.
Ireland had the ball deep near the corner and pass the ball right in front of the net. Kaiser redirected the pass and appeared to send it wide when Merica Abnathy poked the ball in the net.
Early in the second half, Ireland took a pass from Kaiser then quickly sent it across to Giddens, who pushed it over to Hanna McDonell. McDonell then scored to give Jenkins the 4-0 lead.
“She just has fabulous vision,” Jenkins first-year head coach Kayla Grimsley said. “Her vision and her understanding of the game is awesome. She’s usually pretty accurate. When she has the ball, something dangerous happens most of the time.”
Jenkins defense, led my defender Morgan Joiner Katelyn Hosegood, Samantha Lagasse and Alexis McKinzie did a solid job shutting out the high-scoring Highlanders for most of the game along with goalkeepers Madison Chancey and Emerson Ellis.
Delaney Elder had some scoring chances in the game but couldn’t break through. In the final 10 minutes, Chanley Pfingston and Alicia Kralik finally broke through.
“I think overall, that was the best front line we’ve seen all season,” Grimsley said. “They’re very strong, very fast, very talented soccer players.”
Abnathy had a late goal for the Eagles with an assist from Sara Miller.