Hiland’s winning mentality shines in narrow win
BERLIN—Great teams just find ways to win.
A prime example of this happened on Saturday when Hiland’s women’s soccer team took on Mansfield Christian.
With every reason in the book to drop a game against the Flames, the Hawks found a way to go 4-3 to pick up another win and keep pushing the program forward.
“That’s a lot of the expectation the players have now compared to five years ago,” Hiland coach Conner Lee said. “Five years ago they would show up, have fun and win or lose. They didn’t mind too much. This group has that fire in them and understands ‘We’re a good program and we expect to win every game we play. we are introducing ourselves. “”
That competitive fire and expectation of greatness gives Hiland an approach they haven’t necessarily always had.
“That expectation is the difference,” he added. “We just have that trust and confidence in the team. I think that’s why we’re capable of making games like this.”
Five years ago, Lee took the reins of the program that was 5-13 in the state tournament since 2005 and had advanced to district play only three times.
Since then, the program has made four consecutive district finals, won the program’s first-ever district title, contested last fall, and qualified for regional play twice.
On Saturday, they were less one of the best goalkeepers in the region in Itzelle Guzman, then saw a 3-1 halftime lead disappear in the second half. It was then that they showed that determination which epitomizes exactly why this program has thrived since 2018.
With the score tied at 3-3 with 5:54 left in regulation, Bryn Yoder threw a pass down the right wing for Kaufman. Setting the pass in stride, the elder took a few steps and fired a laser from the right side of the goal box. Kaufman fired the shot past a diving Mansfield Christian keeper, Abby Heininger, just inside the left post for the winning score.
“It was really nice to go ahead right there,” Kaufman said.
The senior also had every reason to be beaming as that score capped her first hat-trick of the season.
For the Hawks, it was huge as they had seen a 3-1 halftime lead evaporate in the second half, with the Flames scoring the equalizer with 9:53 left in the game.
“I was just thinking how hard we had to fight,” Kaufman said. “We did really well at the start, and when they came back it just gave us more of a chance to bring it to them.”
The first half had many highlights, but none bigger than rookie Chanelle Kellogg scoring her first high school goal. Taking a pass from fellow freshman and midfielder Chloe Beach, Kellogg made the shot with 16:23 left in the first half.
“It was a pass from a freshman, so it was a really good freshman goal, and I was proud of it,” Kellogg said.
For Kellogg, it was a fun start to her prep career as she enjoyed her time and quickly found her place on the team.
“I was definitely nervous at first,” she said. “But they were all so welcoming to us freshmen, so it was pretty easy to fit in.”
This bond proved crucial over the weekend for Hiland, as it has throughout the period since 2018.
“It’s the relationship with the team that’s key,” Kaufman said. “This year we’re really able to connect during training which helps us a lot during games. We’re all close and very easy to work with.”
As these Hawks continue to grow throughout the season, these intangibles are a big reason Lee has confidence in the roster. With a ‘next player’ mentality, high expectations and a willingness to learn, this team is ready no matter who is on the pitch.
“The eleven we put out there, we have confidence,” Lee said.