Jenna Castro's return to the Comet field was met with hugs and high-fives as she joined new teammates, a former coach, and a nearly 100 year legacy of female sports smiles at Hillcrest Academy. Joining Underwood sophomore captain Kindra Peterson, the Castro-Peterson tandem is likely to be an X-factor to push the Comets into a longer post-season this year.
The scoring started early on the dreary Friday afternoon game against the St. John's Johnnies. Hillcrest students heard their final bell of the school day and gingerly walked over to Danielsen field to see the Lady Comets celebrating the first of Castro's five goals after only two minutes of play. The pass off the foot of Junior Danielsen student Hannah Engebretsen setup Castro for the first strike of the game. The butterflies left Castro, who said she was nervous about how the Lady Comets would fare, and the team settled-in to push the ball offensively for the rest of the day, giving Senior Paige Schultz an easier afternoon in the net.
Comet fans only watching the celebration from the first goal saw a repeat three minutes later when Castro won a ball from a Johnnie dribbler and sent a shot into the goal, scoring her second in only five minutes of play.
Four minutes later, Engebretsen found Castro for a hat-trick nine minutes into the game. Comet Coach Jeremy Mueller noted that the offensive jump in the Lady Comets is exciting. "Friday’s game was a very strong start to our season. The girls have really come a long way since we began practice two weeks ago. We have a lot of improving still to do, especially with our defensive positioning, however, this team has some of the most potential Hillcrest Girls soccer has seen in a long time."
The Comets walked into halftime with a 4-0 lead after Junior Emma Kvalheim scored a goal in the 29th minute. Coach Mueller instituted a few adjustments to help his defense narrow gaps and fill passing lanes in an effort to keep the Comets from becoming complacent, opening lanes for shots at Schultz in the net.
In the first minute of play after the opening of the second half, Castro split a hoard of defenders to put the ball in the net and earn her 4th goal of the day. Engebretsen received the assist on the play, proving the Engebretsen-to-Castro tandem a phrase likely to be heard throughout the season.
Nine minutes later the Johnnies slipped past the Comet defenders to put a tough shot on goal, earning their first goal of day at the 50th minute of the contest. The Comets answered with Castro's fifth goal of the night in the 55th minute.
Hillcrest worked on their defense through much of the rest of the game, calling players to positions and spots as the Hillcrest-Underwood Comet cooperative continues to hone their defense under Mueller's direction. In the 70th minute of play the Johnnies hard work to beat the Comet line earned them their second goal of the day. Hillcrest answered in the 80th minute to close the scoring for the game.
The game was an incredible confidence booster for the Lady Comets, who two weeks earlier were moving things into the dorms and meeting their teammates from Underwood for the first time on the soccer field.
Coach Jeremy Mueller had a smile from ear-to-ear after breaking the team down in their huddle after the game. "We knew Jenna Castro (senior forward, #8) would bring a much needed offensive punch this year, and her 5 goals in our first game have us pretty excited about what may be in store for the rest of the season."
The Comets are excited to play their next match, having score more goals in their first contest than they scored in the first six games they played last year. Mueller notes that the game held more than an incredibly impressive stat line for Jenna Castro. "Our two center midfielders, Kindra Peterson, a sophomore captain, and Lea Austevoll, played exceptional on both ends of the field, and have the potential to make us very competitive this year with the top teams in our conference.”