BY RICH TORRES FOR THE HERALD BULLETIN
ANDERSON–Evelyn Rodriguez refused to dust off her jersey after making a diving save attempt late in the second half on Monday night.
Dug in during the Anderson Indians’ home opener at Collier Field, the AHS sophomore goalkeeper bounced up, peered forward and immediately rallied her teammates.
“Who’s got 14?,” Rodriguez yelled from the box as the visiting Wapahani Raiders reset their offense. “Get set!”
A converted forward-midfielder, Rodriguez was a freshman attacker a year ago. Now, she’s the last line of defense, and she played the role precisely to head coach Taylor Siebers’ expectations during the Tribe’s first match of the season.
“She made some major strides during the offseason. She worked out quite a bit and with the boys players that just went off to college,” Siebers said. “You can tell she’s definitely improved her game.”
Her leadership spilled over naturally as Wapahani built a 2-0 first-half lead before the Raiders (1-0) finalized the margin 3-0 with a second-half goal.
After an 0-12 campaign for Anderson in 2017, setbacks can be contagious, but Rodriguez made sure they didn’t take root for the youthful group.
“I just try to bring it back up positive, whatever we can do to prevent another goal,” Rodriguez said. “I have faith in my defense, and they fixed the mistakes. It was positive.”
The final 25 minutes of the match proved a microcosm of what could be for the Tribe, Siebers noted. With nine freshmen, three sophomores, six juniors and only three seniors on the roster, the first half was a wake-up call.
In the second half, especially late, the Tribe pushed the tempo and showed their grit. If not for a few ill-timed offside calls and some narrowly missed thru-balls, the final tally could have played out differently.
“We have quite a few new players and a lot of inexperience, and that’s kind of where the mental breakdowns occur,” Siebers said. “But overall, even though it was a 3-0 loss, it was still a positive outcome. I saw a lot of positives things from players that are brand new, and I saw a lot of things we can obviously work on right now.”
In-game communication will be a focal point moving forward, something the Indians are on the cusp of discovering as they grow together.
“They were all goals where we kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” Siebers said. “None of them should have happened. They were breakdowns more or less.
“We got beat to a lot of 50-50 balls,” Siebers added. “If we can control the game in the middle, then we can work the ball out wide, like we’ve been working on, and that will open up things for our forwards.”
The defense, meanwhile, intends to follow Rodriguez’s lead. “We’re going to practice hard for our next game,” she said. “We’re going to practice hard so we can win. We did a good job. I’m really proud of my team. Last year, we lost (5-1) to (Wapahani), so this is a good comeback. One of the best we’ve ever had. We just need to fix little mistakes.”
The Indians (0-1) travel to Delta on Thursday for a 4:30 p.m. meeting to kick off a five-match road trip before returning home on Sept. 13 against Connersville.