By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
If it seems like Jalyn McClean and Serena Boyce have a special connection on the field, it’s because they’ve spent years perfecting it.
The Kickapoo juniors have played major varsity minutes since their freshman seasons. In the offseason, they play club together for Sporting Springfield.
“We know how each other work,” McClean said. “We know how to play off each other, which foot to play and what runs to make. We work really well together. We know what each other’s thinking.”
McClean and Boyce keyed Kickapoo’s offensive attack Monday night in a 4-1 victory at Class 2 Springfield Catholic.
McClean, thanks to two second-half goals, finished with a hat trick. Boyce added a first-half goal and a second-half assist.
Kickapoo led 2-0 by halftime.
“They play well off each other,” said Chiefs coach Phil Hodge. “If it’s not Jalyn, it’s Serena. If it’s not them, then maybe it’s (leading scorer) Ellie Miller or Teddi Riddle. Tonight, Jalyn gave us the production.”
McClean had a pair of goals within a four-minute span in the second half. She scored in the 53rd minute off a Boyce feed.
“Just making plays,” Hodge said. “That’s what we talked about at halftime. Find a way and somebody make a play.”
Catholic had a chance to get within 3-1 minutes later. However, Chiefs sophomore goalkeeper Chloe Young preserved the Chiefs’ 3-0 lead by making a stop on a 1-v-1 opportunity.
Kickapoo sealed the win in the 57th minute with McClean’s third goal of the match to take control for good, 4-0.
“Jalyn’s created a ton of chances for us, but not all of them have gone in,” Hodge said. “Frustrating for her, frustrating for us. For her to get a few to go in tonight, it’s a big relief.”
Kickapoo improved to 10-5-1 overall. The Class 4 Chiefs have yet to lose against local competition.
Their five losses have come against three state-ranked teams, and a Harrison Goblins squad that will contend for a state title in Arkansas.
“Our schedule’s brutal,” Hodge said. “Catholic’s always a contender, state playoffs and everything. For us to have a local game against good competition and show well tonight, that’s a credit to our girls. We get everybody’s best game, everybody’s tough game.
“We had a total team effort tonight.”
Kickapoo controlled the match with its overall team speed and midfield play.
“It was nice to have extra space tonight because we’re used to high press, high attacking, hard 50-50s,” McClean said. “We had space and time to dribble and look for opportunities to make the runs.
“We just connected passes (better), too. That’s something we haven’t been able to capitalize on the last few games.”
Catholic’s lone goal was a noteworthy one. In the 68th minute, goalkeeper Kaitlin Knetzke scored off a free kick from the 35-yardline.
Catholic dropped to 10-4-3 overall. The Irish, battling through injuries, had to call up three junior varsity players for the match.
“We just don’t have as much team speed this year, and Kickapoo is definitely superior in that,” said Irish coach Ben Timson. “Their speed was difficult for us to handle.
“We’re learning. We’re young.”