MALVERN -- Lake Hamilton wasted no time in showing its offensive prowess, scoring its first goal just 2:13 into the game, as the Wolves cruised to a 5-0 win over Malvern at David Alpe Field Friday night.
"It was nice to get that one after all the battles we've had," Lake Hamilton head coach Cito Dickson said of the win. "It was it was rough our first three games. It seems like it was -- every game was something that was just uncertainty. This game they were relaxed and were able to put together their, their best soccer. So that's all I ask is moving forward, they're playing their best soccer, so we'll see what happens."
Malvern conceeded its first corner kick, and Julius Ziegler sent a rocket that bounced off the right upright, all within the first minute of the game. Following the Wolves' second corner, Mick Rios got a foot on the ball, sending it into the back of the net past Malvern keeper Lacordia DJ Culp.
The Leopards (0-1) got their first bit of good news in the fifth minute when they were awarded a free kick after a foul by the Wolves (4-0). Culp had two more saves and a block inside the first 15 minutes of the match as multiple Lake Hamilton players took aim.
Leopards head coach Seth Roberts said that he was disappointed in the conduct of some of the players on the pitch.
"I was telling my guys, you know, just when games get chippy like that, it's just -- we've got to let our play do the talking and not do the pushing and not do the mouthing," he said. "You know, you can't control what somebody else does, but you can control what you do. And at Malvern, we want to be a team that always tries to play with class and dignity, and you know, there's going to be the time where we lose it. And that's, you know, that happens. We're all human; we all make mistakes, but we want to try to keep games clean, keep games fun, and just have a good competition between schools."
After three shots on goal in under four minutes, Paul Gonzalez squeezed a shot past Culp for the 2-0 lead with 13:41 left in the half. Just over five minutes later, Gonzalez picked up a brace with his second goal of the night as Lake Hamilton took a 3-0 lead with 8:04 left in the first half.
With most of the game played on Malvern's end of the pitch, the Leopards managed just two shots in the first half and three on the night, none of which were on target.
"We came out and kind of got punched in the mouth a little bit," Roberts said. "And you know, it wasn't a very good first half. I told them, 'We have for 40 more minutes to go out there and play a really quality team and try to get better.' And I said, 'You know, hopefully the scoreboard says 4-3 at the end, but if it doesn't, I want to be able to look at you at the end and say, Hey, we picked it up, we got better. And we're going to continue to be better as we move on.' So I think that's what we just have to do. You have to kind of take it little by little and see that, you know, you may not get the win, but you still have a chance to go out against a good team and get better. And I think we did that in the second half."
The Wolves came out swinging again in the second half, taking 11 shots in the first 20 minutes of the period. With 11:37 left in the game, Dickson pulled starting keeper Sy Sisson to give rookie Destin Rhodes some time in the goalbox.
"Our starting senior keeper has been out, and so we've had a 10th grade keeper (Sisson) that stepped up, and then I've got another senior (Rhodes) that has never been a keeper before, and he's progressed amazingly. But our defensive backs they, you know, they're getting more and more comfortable with one another. We lost a senior last year, and my senior this year is kind of missing his buddy from last year, but they they have put it together and this game really is probably when they clicked the best, so I'm hoping they're gonna just continue improving and we're playing the peak at the right time."
Rios picked up his brace with 7:45 left in the game with a high-powered right-footed kick into the right corner of the net under a diving Culp. Michael Lyford made it 5-0 with a goal at the 6:14 mark.
Both of Lake Hamilton's keepers ended with clean sheets without a single save between them.
The Wolves will host DeQueen Tuesday while Malvern hosts Little Rock Southwest.