Led by midfielders Imani Sanders and Lillie Miller, Long Reach made a good case for why it should be considered among the best of the east Columbia teams. Scoring a school record 22 goals, the Lightning defeated Oakland Mills, 22-18, Thursday afternoon.
Breaking away from a 5-5 tie late in the first half, Long Reach played cat and mouse with Oakland Mills. The Lightning would score a handful of goals, let Oakland Mills close the gap and then throw in another scoring spurt.
It was the first win of the season for Long Reach.
“I’m happy to finally have a number in the win column,” said Long Reach coach Colleen Delaney.
Oakland Mills won its first league game of the season on Tuesday.
“We knew they were going to be a challenge because they just beat Hammond which was their first win in a lot of games,” said Long Reach senior Imani Sanders.
Long Reach beat Oakland Mills a year ago, so the Lightning came into Thursday’s game with a feeling of confidence.
“We finally found the net,” said Delaney.
Miller (nine goals, assist) and Sanders (five goals, four assists) led the Long Reach scoring. While they were uncanny in finding each other on offense, they weren’t the entire Long Reach show.
“Our scores have normally been pretty low this year. (In this game) we got contribution from other players on the team,” Sanders said.
For example, Sadie McClelland chipped in four goals for the Lightning.
Miller and Sanders make quite a duo on offense.
“A lot of times you don’t even know that Imani or Lillie are in the play and then they find each other. It’s a wonderful thing for us,” Delaney said.
One standout play between the two came late in the game. Long Reach seemed content to run a spread to score when Sanders suddenly whipped a pinpoint pass through several Long Reach defenders’ sticks at the precise moment Miller was open in front of the goal cage. The pass was so perfect there was nothing Oakland Mills keeper Ashley Ramirez could do to stop the shot.
“I saw (Imani); we had eye contact,” Miller said.
Her nine-goal day is one of the most productive in Long Reach history.
Oakland Mills also did its share of scoring.
Sarah Farrall had seven goals and teammate Jordan Kerr had six.
“It feels good to finally be competitive instead of getting crushed,” Kerr said.
In its last two games, Oakland Mills has recorded 41 of the 60 goals it has tallied this season.