Rachel Sutter struck twice for Lodi High in Tuesday’s 2-1 girls soccer victory over cross-town rival Tokay at Lodi’s Don Rostomily Field.
And while she may deservedly garner the glory for those goals, there’s somebody doing the dirty work to get the ball to her in the goal box. On Tuesday, that was Flames senior striker Stevie Jones.
“I think for everybody, it’s our town we want to win. It’s our field we want to win,” said Jones after notching assists on both of Sutter’s goals. “They won on their field, we won on ours. I think it’s nice to finish with a win over Tokay as a senior. It’s nice to have something to fall back on for my senior year, and having both assists for those goals is pretty nice.”
Jones, sporting a fading black eye from last week’s 4-3 Tri-City Athletic League loss to St. Mary’s on Jan. 24, took control of the ball in the 26th minute with a steal near midfield, then worked her way on a diagonal counterattack to the right side of the field before slotting the ball in to Sutter. Sutter took the ball drifting to the outside, then cut inside on Tokay goalkeeper Madison Covey-Taylor for an easy shot to give Lodi (3-4 in the TCAL,4-10-1) a 1-0 lead.
Tokay (2-5-1 in the TCAL, 5-8-3) responded a few minutes later, with Hannah Hauschildt converging on a pass from wing Noelia Salas at the same time as Lodi goalkeeper Reese Odell and another defender. Hauschildt came away- with the ball and was able to tap it into the net.
“I think this has been the most competitive rivalry we’ve had in a long, long time,” said Tokay coach Samuel Gonzalez. “In the past it was always Lodi. This year it’s giving them a hard time, and at the end of the day you want to play some good soccer, and give them a show for everybody. ..It was going back and forth at one point, having the ball in the box and almost scoring, that’s really interesting, and it’s exciting to see. Can she score, can she put it away?”
Both sides had missed opportunities as the sides went into halftime tied at 1. Then it was back to the back-and-forth, physical match until Tokay defender Lauren Fisk went down with an ankle injury. Fisk raced back to block a shot by Sutter, but the ball hit he ankle just as she was putting her weight on it, and she went down.
It was nearly 10 minutes before the game got going again as the team trainer wrapped and stabilized Fisk’s ankle.
“Losing a player, it’s always going to hurt a team. She’s a starter. But also know we have players who can play,” Gonzalez said. “For them, they enjoy playing high school soccer, and especially her, she loves playing the game. For her, missing these last two games are going to hurt her more than her ankle.
“I’m hoping it’s just a sprain, and she’s back in four or five weeks playing competitive.”
The teams were slow to get back into the groove once action continued, but the Flames got going just a bit quicker. Jones beat her defender to a long pass down the sideline in the 62nd minute, and sent the ball into the box, where Sutter was waiting. Sutter separated from her defender, turned the ball and took a shot at the far post, where a diving Covey-Taylor was unable to reach it.
“The first goal was exactly what we’d talked about,” Lodi coach Tim Stutz said. “Stevie was playing a false nine, we plugged her in, we were telling the outsides to cut behind them, she played it perfectly. The second one was just guts. She just beat that girl, Rachel had a great touch and turned that girl.”
Jones said the Flames like to build their attack from the back line to set up the forwards.
“Once we get it, we play outside and just look for the perfect ball to Rachel,” Jones said, “and I think it took a while for me to get it, but I think I placed it pretty well for her to get it. She deserves it.”
Covey-Taylor finished with six saves for the Tigers, while Odell had four for the Flames. Covey-Taylor grabbed one pass into the box late in the game that Jones would have had a solid shot on — a play that ended with Jones limping off the field following a hard collision.
“There was a lot more than just rivalries at stake,” Gonzalez said. “It was whoever wins gets a good spot at the playoffs, knowing that Lodi has three more games, and we have two. I think it was going to be whoever wins today’s game is going to get a little push for that playoff spot.”