Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Damian Clarke wanted offensive diversity.
He got plenty of it Saturday.
The No. 15 Fort Lewis College women’s soccer team got six goals from five different players and all manner of different locations to topple its forebears 6-0 in the annual alumnae game Saturday at Dirks Field.
Despite sprinting to a 4-0 lead at halftime, Clarke, FLC’s head coach, wasn’t happy with the way his side struggled to keep possession. That all changed after intermission.
“I thought the first half we ended up being direct,” he said. “Our back four weren’t comfortable swinging the ball around, so it’d kind of get to a center back and go straight forward from there. Once we started to move it left to right, it opened everything up.”
Freshman forward/midfielder Brooke Milliet said focusing on what they did off the ball helped the Skyhawks improve by leaps and bounds after halftime.
“In the second half, we just played a lot better soccer and scored. ... We really tried to focus on the people moving off the ball, and we didn’t really have that as much in the first half,” she said.
Serena Mancha and Milliet opened the scoring from a distance. Mancha found a ball at her feet from 25 yards out in the fifth minute and rocketed it past former standout goalkeeper Christine Schmelzle into the upper left hand corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Milliet, a freshman and former Durango High School star striker, followed suit two minutes later, hitting a shot from the top left of the penalty area and into the top right corner of the net to double the advantage.
“I was really excited. I’m always really excited to score,” Milliet said after a game in which she took on her former Durango Youth Soccer Association coach and FLC alumna Kate Stahlin.
Allison Knewitz made it 3-0 in the 23rd minute, juking an alumna defender before tucking a shot inside the near post, and Megan Striedel pushed the advantage to four in the 44th minute with a strike from about 30 yards out.
Striedel added another in the 59th minute, heading a corner kick past her assistant coach and former FLC goalkeeper Bree Baker for a 5-0 lead.
Elena Benavides capped the scoring with a shot from 20 yards out that tipped off Baker’s fingertips before finding the net.
The diversity of scoring is what Clarke’s hoping for more of this season. All six goals were scored by midfielders, and the inclusion of Mancha and Knewitz – two players lost in depth last year – on the scoresheet was a welcome sight.
“We’re just kind of an enigma in terms of ... finding a way to stop hopefully an attacking mindset,” said Clarke, who took time out to thank the alumnae for their return. “We didn’t play great football in the first half, but I’ll take four goals.”
Schmelzle, the 2010 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, said she was pleased to see the current side’s offense clicking as well as it did this early in the year.
“They had some amazing shots,” Schmelzle said. “I was really impressed, so I’m excited for them, because they got me pretty good.”
Defensively, Clarke switched things up a bit after halftime, inserting freshman Laura Tita into the center and moving Madyson Wellcome outside. He’s hoping that Tita can hold down the middle next to Lauren Riley, giving the speedy Wellcome a chance to push up offensively more often.
“I think that Laura’s a very strong player in the back, gives us a dangerous set-piece threat going forward, and, you know, obviously if Madyson gets a chance to go forward, she’s fast, she’s aggressive in terms of wanting to get forward, and hopefully she’s the extra player in the attack.”