After a yearlong layoff from prep soccer, Geneseo senior Taylor DeSplinter and the Maple Leafs are off to a strong start this season, their first in the Western Big 6 Conference.
DeSplinter and fellow senior Brooke Harms each scored two goals as Geneseo grabbed a 6-0 home conference win over Rock Island on Tuesday night.
Bailey Huizenga and Johnna Fulcher also found the net for Geneseo (4-0, 2-0 Big 6), which out-shot Rocky (3-2, 2-1) 13-4 on goal in their second straight Big 6 shutout.
Last year’s prep girls soccer season was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying Geneseo's debut year in the Big 6. But DeSplinter and a number of others showed off their experience from two years ago and chemistry built from the travel season.
DeSplinter said her team’s passing stood out in the win. Geneseo led 2-0 at halftime before opening things up in the second half.
“I feel like we were hitting feet and winning fifty-fifty balls, and that’s obviously what made us win,” said DeSplinter, a St. Ambrose University soccer commit. “We were using the outside a lot and crossing into the middle and shooting it. … We played really well tonight.”
Geneseo, which has often featured a stout defense in recent years, used its offense and ball control to bolster the defensive effort against Rocky.
“Throughout the whole field, we’re strong,” DeSplinter said. “There are no weak figures on our field. We can move the ball all the way up the field. Our defense is always there making the end runs. I just feel like we all play well together.”
The Leafs’ defense contained Rocky’s forwards Denise Carr and Lexi Thompson, who continue to gain experience playing varsity soccer together for the first season.
Rocky coach Mike Mertel said he told the team it was the better one at times on Tuesday. It just has to work on being more consistent. Mertel considers Geneseo to be one of the most talented teams in the Big 6. The Leafs started six seniors. Rocky has three seniors on its whole roster.
“They were just more consistent, and that comes with tradition and playing at that level for so long,” Mertel said. “This is new for us in terms of being able to compete with these teams.”
Mertel said the team played better in the first half before losing its focus after the break.
“We lost our edge in some aspects, and they stayed true to their game,” said Mertel. “They weren’t panicked or anything, so they were able to execute.”
Despite being shut out, the Rocks gained experience against a team with six straight regional titles and 11 since 2007.
Freshman keeper Addie Bomelyn had a great save on a DeSplinter penalty kick and turned away nine shots on goal in the game.
“With a freshman goalkeeper, this was one of our first big tests here. She came up really big in the PK and had several key stops,” Mertel said. “Up top, the forwards are just getting used to playing with each other.”
He said the team is still working toward playing at full strength with some players still dealing with quarantine from volleyball season. Kayla Rice also took the field for the first time for Rocky.
Mertel said his team will regather itself after giving credit to the Leafs.
“Geneseo is probably at the top of the Big 6, at least looking at the talent they have,” he said. “If we are able to compete a little bit better, I think there’s not a team in the Big 6 that we can’t compete with.”
Geneseo coach Harvey Morton thought his team started slow after a week off, with Friday’s game against another postseason regular Peoria Notre Dame canceled, but the team found its rhythm.
Senior Cadence Talbert was the keeper in the shutout.