RICHMOND – As Johnsburg girls soccer coach Rob Eastland drove toward a spring break in Florida last month, he couldn't stop thinking about his team's loss to conference rival Richmond-Burton the previous week. He mulled what went wrong for hours, unable to turn off the coaching part of his brain.
After that 3-1 loss March 23, his team was 0-3 and had scored just one goal heading into spring break.
After returning from the break, the Skyhawks won their next four games, scoring multiple goals in each, leading up to a rematch with the Rockets on Tuesday at R-B.
With things seemingly moving in the right direction ahead of Tuesday's match, Eastland challenged his team to prove that the first result was an outlier.
"What I actually did, I totally removed all tactics, like 'This is the formation, there's no tactics today, I just want you to go toe-to-toe and prove to yourself what you can do,'" Eastland said. "I think the girls responded really well to that. It was all about individual matchups around the field and 'Hey go take your game at theirs and see who's better.' ...
"This was one of those games where you go 'Roll your sleeves up and get a result.' They did good."
Johnsburg scored three times in the second half to beat Richmond-Burton, 3-0, in a Kishwaukee River Conference match at Richmond-Burton. Taylor Piggott scored twice and Madelyn Peterson added the other for the Skyhawks (5-3, 5-2 KRC) who have now won five straight since that first loss to the Rockets.
"It just fired us up and we wanted to get our revenge," Piggott said of the last meeting with R-B.
"It was one of our first games before spring break and we were just getting to know how to work with each other," she added. "I think now we're getting better and better together."
After playing into the wind for a scoreless first half, Johnsburg broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second half. Piggott netted the game-winner with a well-placed shot from the top of the box into the bottom-left corner.
Peterson made it 2-0 with a long shot that got up in the wind and floated over leaping Richmond-Burton goalkeeper Lindsy Restis.
Then, in the final five minutes Piggott capped the victory with a weaving run past a couple lunging defenders on the right wing before finishing from close range.
"What she's done better and better throughout the season is she's raised the quality of her game in the sense of, she was very much just a turn-and-hit player and now she's cutting inside, she's going outside, she's putting doubt in players' minds," Eastland said. "I don't think there's a player around right now that would like to mark her, whether big school, small school, she's tough to handle out on that field."
Richmond-Burton (6-5-1, 5-2) had a pair of second-half chances to get back into the match, but Anna Blaney had a shot saved by Johnsburg goalkeeper Jessica Strzelczyk, and then Gabby Ross shot high on another promising attack.
"We couldn't connect to save our life and it really was discouraging," Rockets coach Casey DeCaluwe said. "I think we saw a lot of heads go down after that first goal and at that point, against the wind, we didn't think we could get a goal. We had two opportunities and we didn't finish them and couldn't come back."
Strzelczyk finished with four saves in the shutout, while Restis made six in the loss.
"In the second half I think we were just under a lot of pressure and just did not step up to the pressure," DeCaluwe said. "They wanted to win more than we did and it showed in their play, it showed on 50-50s, we didn't have the heart or desire to win balls and Johnsburg did."
Johnsburg, sr., GK
The Skyhawks' goalkeeper was only called on to make four saves total, but she came up with a couple big ones in the second half to preserve the lead when it was just 1-0.
5: Consecutive wins for Johnsburg after an 0-3 start.
And another thing...
The Rockets have not scored a goal in their last two conference games after scoring 14 in their first five. They have been outscored 8-0 in those matches against Johnsburg and Burlington Central.