DANVILLE — It was late in the first half Wednesday when one of Midd-West’s many charges at the Danville cage seemed certain to end with Delaney Klingler’s pass slipping across the end line.
So it was rather startling that the ball was suddenly front-and-center of the goal, sent right to left from Lexi Griffith to Brenna Brown’s waiting stick for a blink-and-you-missed-it finish.
The Mustangs took a six-point lead on the goal — Brown’s fifth of the half and 50th in her varsity career — which was the most spectacular of several instances of not giving up on a scoring opportunity.
“I told them that they needed to be hungry for the cage,” said Midd-West coach Jodie Sheaffer. “We usually get a shot and then we never get a second and third, but tonight we did.”
The Mustangs opened Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II play with an 8-0 win over the host Ironmen, who played their first game of the season.
“They are playing in the center (of the circle) and we’re getting beat in the center,” said Danville co-coach Marah Biddle. “That’s what they did really great in the beginning, and our girls just weren’t able to work together to stop that right away. Those are basics that we can work to improve.”
Brown, already Midd-West’s career scoring leader (currently 136 points), notched her first five-goal game since popping six against Warrior Run in 2017. She scored her first Wednesday just more than 2 minutes into the game by staying on the ball during a brief scrum with Ironmen goalie Katie Miller.
Four minutes later, after the Mustangs played a long corner insert back to the circle, Haley Stahl pried away the ball from Danville left back Jadyn Koser and sent it to Brown in the middle. Miller kicked away Brown’s first attempt but couldn’t stop the rebound shot.
“You have to just look to see where your other players are on the field,” said Brown, “and you have to watch to see where the ball is coming from and place yourself in the right position to receive the ball and take the shot at the same time.”
Stahl made it 3-0 after a pass from Marlo Spriggle off Midd-West’s third corner just 8:15 into the game. Brown was again in the right place at the right time with 19 minutes left in the half, punching home the rebound after Miller stopped a Sydney Keister shot.
“For Brenna, it’s being a veteran player,” Sheaffer said of her all-state forward. “She knows she has to step to the ball. She knows how to find corners (of the cage) when she takes her shot. Yeah, sometimes it’s luck, but a lot of times she just goes to the ball, and she’s so good at collecting it and finishing.”
Danville graduated a HAC-II all-star back in Cecelia Hough among six starters from last year’s district qualifier, but it returned Koser and Laura Cashner in front of Miller, a two-year starter.
“It’s still very new for those four (backs), communicating and working together,” said Biddle. “Right now, you can see we’re still trying to figure things out in that backfield, which has been our strength in past years.”
Miller made 12 saves overall, and junior back Mandy Hackenberg made a defensive save in the second half for the Ironmen. There were a costly handful of times, however, that their defense was unable to rally to the ball after the initial tip of a pass or ball off pads.
“That’s next-step thinking that we’re not 100 percent on right now,” said co-coach Sarah Biddle, Marah’s twin. “Those rebounds, sometimes it’s hard for us to recover. We just didn’t have enough girls in the circle to mark those girls who are taking the rebound shots.”
Danville was unable to field a junior varsity team so Midd-West started the second half with its jayvees. They scored a goal on a rush down the center of the field, with Megan Hill converting from Lana Plummer. Griffith capped the scoring at the right post with 9:04 to play as Midd-West moved to 2-0 (1-0 HAC-II).
“We had a little trouble communicating at the beginning of the season; we would talk off the field but we wouldn’t talk on the field. So I think we’ve gotten a lot better with that,” said Brown. “(Wednesday) I noticed that a lot of people were picking their heads up before they passed the ball, and you could really tell a difference that it was helping.”
MIDD-WEST 8, DANVILLE 0
MW-Brenna Brown, 27:54; MW-Brown, 23:41; MW-Haley Stahl (Marlo Spriggle), 21:45; MW-Brown, 19:03; MW-Brown (penalty stroke), 8:01; MW-Brown (Lexi Griffith, Delaney Klingler), 5:05.
MW-Megan Hill (Lana Plummer), 10:45; MW-Griffith (Stahl, Aubrey Isaacs), 9:04.
Shots: MW 20-0. Corners: MW 8-2. Cards: MW, Carmyn Markley, 2nd half, 21:25 (green). Saves: Midd-West 0 (Aleah Gemberling, Paris Seibel); Danville 12 (Katie Miller).