Hiland girls soccer strives toward goals by making goals

Hiland girls soccer strives toward goals by making goals
Dave Mast

Hiland's youth has led to some speed bumps this season, but coach Conner Lee likes the direction his young talent like freshman Italee Mullet is heading.


Sometimes, when you can’t find success, you must hunt it down.

That is kind of what this year’s youthful Hiland girls soccer team is doing right now as it learns to compete on the fly.

In Hiland’s game versus Triway on Monday, Sept. 18, at Hiland High School, the Lady Hawks produced a 6-0 win, and much to the joy of coach Conner Lee, five girls found the back of the net.

For a team that relied heavily on Chanelle Kellogg to produce goals in the season’s first several games, it was a fun experience to see many players contributing.

For a team that lost the program’s all-time leading scorer, its all-time leader in assists and several key defensive players from last season’s regional-qualifying team, Lee knew there would be speed bumps along the way during this year’s effort and the challenges to score with a group of youthful Lady Hawks would take time.

Kellogg, only a sophomore, had carried much of that scoring burden coming into this game. However, she showed she could dish it out, too, producing three assists. So, when senior Emily Gingerich opened up the scoring, freshman Italee Mullet added two goals and Kellogg, Mallory Stutzman and Kaitlyn Miller all added scores, it was a sign to Lee that his team was starting to figure things out.

“Learning to win is a process, and when you lose the all-time leading scorer and assist leader from one class, along with a bunch of good defenders and a strong keeper, it’s going to leave a hole to fill, and that leads to a learning process where we need to figure things out without those kids who graduated making things happen,” Lee said.

“But the last couple of games, we’ve seen some growth, and we’re getting there. Kids are figuring things out and finding their roles, and we’re starting to produce some scores more consistently.”

Lee said building confidence has been part of the process, and getting more players in the scoring column can only add to the confidence that he sees coming along in his team.

He said one of the things they work on daily at practice is developing the types of scoring skills that will pay dividends down the road once the younger players become more aggressive and confident in their games.

Lee said the talent is definitely there. It just takes time for younger players to figure things out, and while it is good to have it happen in practice, nothing can compete with the joy and confidence that grows from knocking in a score during a meaningful game.

Lee said the strength of schedule of Hiland’s opponents has certainly contributed to the lack of scoring the team experienced early on, but he said that, too, is part of the maturation process that helps kids get better.

“We just have to trust the process,” Lee said. “We’ve had bad starts to seasons before and finished strong, and that’s what we want to have happen here this year as we move toward tournaments.”

Lee added that on youthful teams, not experiencing success can be demoralizing, but he and his staff continue to stress that it is a learning process, and they can see the end game coming into focus as the team continues to improve.

He said not only is having patience and committing to the development of both individuals and the team a great concept for soccer, but it is also an important life lesson.

“Things don’t always go the way you want, and working hard to achieve the things in life that are meaningful to you is worthwhile, and that’s something we hope we’re instilling in the girls,” Lee said. “The pieces are there, and they’re starting to come together.”

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