But it wasn’t the biggest motivation for the Norwalk girls soccer team entering Monday’s match with visiting Perkins at the Norwalk Soccer Complex.
Because the Pirates had tied Sandusky earlier in the season, the Truckers had already clinched the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake championship outright for a second straight season.
“The girls know about the streak, but I think tonight was more about beating Perkins than keeping the streak going,” Norwalk coach Michelle Sandor said. “It’s been such a rivalry and a goo match with them, I think the girls just wanted to make it clear they were still on top — and then we wanted to go undefeated.”
Senior Coley Branum scored the only goal of the match in the first half — then sophomore goalkeeper Makaila White turned away a late Perkins surge with some superb net play in Monday’s 1-0 win over the Pirates.
Norwalk improved to 11-2-1 overall, and capped a second straight perfect SBC Lake season at 8-0. Norwalk is yet to lose a Lake match (16-0) since the league expanded and went to the divisional format last year.
Perkins fell to 9-3-1 (5-2-1).
Branum scored on a chip shot just over Perkins goalkeeper Allie Schuster’s hands in the first half — kicked at just the right angle — for the only goal of the match.
“My game plan from the beginning was to chip the keeper, as she plays a very high line,” Branum said. “I saw the opportunity and hit it. It was just at the right angle where it was high enough she couldn’t reach it.”
Meanwhile, White — in her first year playing organized soccer — came up in two huge spots late for the Truckers. She also denied the Pirates’ Olivia Howard on a breakaway attempt in the first half.
But with just under three minutes to go, the Pirates took a corner kick attempt, and the rebound bounced off the post — but White was able to gather the ball and prevent it from getting past her.
“You don’t see too many kids save it off the post, then have the composure to be able to bring it back in like that,” Perkins coach Steve Schuster said. “We had our chances, all the way down to the end.
“We would have loved to have beaten the champs,” he added. “That was our mindset going in. As always, much respect for the Norwalk program. It’s always such a good match. Last year we had a 2-0 game, this year it was 3-2 at our place and tonight it’s 1-0.”
In the Aug. 18 season opener, Norwalk was blitzed 6-0 by visiting Oak Harbor as the team brought back just three seniors from the 13-5 team in 2017.
Six weeks later, the Truckers have won 11 of 14 matches and another league championship.
“”Oak Harbor is a very good team and that game really helped us see what we needed to work on” said Branum, who will continue her career at NCAA Division II University of West Georgia.
“We have had a long of young players step up and embrace their roles,” she added. “We have worked extremely hard in training and it has paid off.”
Sandor echoed her senior standout in her sentiments on the team improvement.
“We trained hard and the players improved so much — especially our younger players,” she said. “Especially kids like Nyah Daniels, who has grown so much, and Gwen Olcott, who couldn’t cross a ball at the beginning of the season and now does it almost perfect.
“Elena Barber on defense came up from the junior varsity team, and Makaila never played soccer before and comes up with a save like tonight,” Sandor added. “Lana Oglesby as an outside defender has been taking on top attackers every game as a freshman. We’ve come so far since that first match, it’s been fun to watch just a good, coachable group come together. They’ve done the work, so it’s awesome to see them rewarded.”
Norwalk hosts Vermilion on Thursday prior to Sunday’s sectional tournament draw, then closes the regular season at home on Oct. 9 vs. Mansfield Senior.
“Perkins played really well against us again,” Sandor said. “We prepared hard for the game and you could tell they did, too.”