Howland completes sweep of Niles

Tigers shut out Red Dragons to advance to district final



It’s difficult to defeat a good team once during the season, much less twice.

Unless, of course, you have the better team.

That was the case Monday night when host Howland blanked Niles 2-0 in a Division II girls soccer district semifinal.

In advancing to Thursday’s district final against the Lakeview, the Tigers (11-6-1) avenged a loss to Niles in last year’s district final.

More impressively, they did it against a Niles team that had won four consecutive games and outscored opponents 12-2 with three shutouts during that span.

The Tigers defeated the Red Dragons (9-7-2) for the second time this year. They secured a 3-2 win at Niles on Sept. 21.

“That’s a good team we played,” Howland coach Joe Megyesi said. “We played well.

“We’re getting better.”

That’s bad news for upcoming opponents, considering how the Tigers dominated the midfield area – in essence, controlling possession for long stretches – and ultimately taking over the game.

As a result, Niles’ dangerous attack never got untracked.

Leading scorer Hannah Ward (12 goals, 31 points) was bracketed and shadowed all game.

“We didn’t let her get the ball,” Megyesi said. “When they passed to her, we always had somebody there.”

Niles coach Jen Mease said that Ward has always faced aggressive defenses designed to prevent her from scoring, but she acknowledged that Howland’s effort was better than most.

“That’s the way they play us,” said Mease, who, while crediting Howland’s performance, indicated that injuries also contributed to her team’s demise. “They were physical and it affected our play.”

Facing a pressurized playoff atmosphere of win or go home, the team that scored first figured to have the advantage.

Howland grabbed the momentum when sophomore forward Isabella Merlo received a through ball from senior defender Izzy Albrecht and angled a shot into the left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead with 14:52 left in the first half.

A key moment occurred right before halftime when Howland goalie Kamryn Buckley pounced on a free ball just ahead of Niles midfielder Alyssa Steffey, maintaining the shutout.

The Tigers produced their insurance goal at the 32:28 mark of the second half, courtesy of sophomore Alex Ochman’s left footed shot out of a scrum of players in the box following a corner kick.