FLATWOODS Russell’s girls soccer team is still having trouble turning it on from the opening whistle.
On Saturday, the Lady Devils still had plenty enough to win going away, and against the one 16th Region team that’s given them the most trouble over the last couple of years.
Host Russell conceded the first goal of Saturday’s matinee to East Carter before rattling off the next six to win, 6-1.
Junior Morgan Vonderheide, who has recently begun playing forward, tallied three goals to lead the Lady Devils (9-3).
“She usually plays outside mid for us, and we scooted her up on the top at forward,” Russell coach Joe Grizzle said of Vonderheide. “Her and Hollie Hencye have both been kind of switching in and out at the forward position. We’ve always had them as our outside mids, and it’s paying off. Both of them are capitalizing.”
Hencye, Shelby Huddleston and Cara Maher also scored for the Lady Devils, who remain undefeated against region competition over the past season and a half.
The Lady Raiders (6-1-1) were the last remaining undefeated team in the region and were the last region side to beat Russell, in the 2012 region tournament semifinals. Coming in, the two teams had split their last seven matches, 3-3-1.
So Russell figured to have its hands full — and did for a half.
“It’s definitely nerve-racking, I will say,” Vonderheide said, “because you have to come out here ready because soccer isn’t just a game of who has better talent, it’s who wants it more and who has the most drive. You never know what might happen. They can get up one and pack the box and you never get a goal in.”
The Lady Raiders did get up one, on Maddie Dyer’s header in the 23rd minute. Vonderheide equalized nine minutes later with a strike inside the right post for a 1-1 halftime score.
Russell then racked up four goals in a span of 15 minutes in the second half, beginning with Huddleston’s score in the 51st minute and ending with Maher’s capitalization on a botched East Carter clearance in the box.
Vonderheide added two more in between, chasing down and finishing a through ball in the 54th minute and converting a penalty kick five minutes later.
Hencye added the final goal six minutes from full time.
“We started playing to feet, we started passing the ball, we started working the ball, we started communicating,” Grizzle said of the second half. “First half we were just kicking, ‘kick and wish,’ and second half, we started putting it together.”
Russell viewed its effort as much more complete in the second half than the first. Vice versa for the Lady Raiders.
“We just need to play both halves of the game,” East Carter coach Jessica Proudfoot said. “We kind of just got stuck in one half and then we let it go. We gotta have a two-half mentality.”
Russell improved to 15-0-1 against region opponents since last season’s outset. It’s outscored region foes 38-6 in six victories this season.
Grizzle said defending that streak isn’t something that overly concerns his team.
“I think they know they have to play every game and show up,” he said, “and hopefully we’ll start doing that the first half.”
East Carter hopes to take a lesson from Saturday as well.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Proudfoot said. “We need to get in better shape; we need to work harder at practice; we just need to take today and learn from it.”
The teams observed a pink-out for cancer awareness. Pink balloons were released in a pregame ceremony, the first game ball was pink, and the teams wore pink accessories. Grizzle and his assistant coaches sported pink spray paint accents in their beards or hair.
East Carter hosts Russell on Oct. 6.
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658. Follow @zklemmeADI on Twitter.