NEWARK – Five seems a long way from 108.
Not if you’re Newark freshman Abby Davies.
In her varsity debut, she scored five goals at Evans Athletic Complex Tuesday in a 9-0, season-opening win against Licking Valley. That’s 103 from the Licking County career record owned by big sister Al Davies, but it’s already on her mind.
“She’s been heckling me about that, telling me how hard I have to work to get it,” Abby said. “I just looked at that trophy this morning. I want to put it in my room.”
“At first, I didn’t realize she played forward. I thought she was more of a midfielder,” coach Vance Bennett said. “She’s aggressive, and she wants the ball.”
Her first two goals came on breakaways less than eight minutes into the game. After senior Addie Gilkey blasted home a shot from in front of the net, Davies lofted a goal home from about 20 yards out, then faked a pass with her left foot and still found the net from the right side. When senior Megan Wiemers scored off a rebound with 1:20 before half, Newark led 6-0.
Davies’ final goal came with 21:18 left, while Gilkey added another goal and Alei Yost scored the last one with 13:11. Newark out-shot the Panthers 21-5, with Taryn Burkley adding an assist for the winners. Amanda Smith had three saves, including a leaping one against Valley’s Sean Rice in the first half, and Taylor Scott added two. Kelsea Hagan stopped 12 shots for the Panthers.
Davies is part of a group of 15 promising freshmen that has swelled Newark’s numbers to 24. For the first time since 2009, the Wildcats have a JV team. Another freshman, Andrea Goodman, was also in the starting lineup, and backup goalie Scott is in that class.
“I’m really excited about our bigger numbers,” Wiemers said. “We’ve never had a JV team since I’ve been here. We have a strong offense, and our freshmen up front are great.”
“Three years ago, we were down to 13-15 girls,” said Bennett, in his 13th season as Newark coach. “The good thing is, a lot of the parents of these freshman coached their youth teams in either club or rec leagues. It’s all about buying in at the younger levels, establishing that soccer base.”
During middle school, Davies played on a successful club team in New Albany.
“We won a lot in our league, and I want to bring the winning to this team,” she said. “With the 15 freshmen, there’s a lot of competition and it will make us work harder.”
Newark’s Alei Yost scores a goal against Licking Valley goalkeeper Kelsea Hagan during the Wildcats 9-0 victory against the Panthers on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014.
Bennett and the Wildcats know there are challenging times ahead in the Ohio Capital Conference-Ohio Division. Pickerington North looms on Tuesday. But this was a good start.
“I have one stipulation, that we only score off a cross,” he said. “We want to work on scoring as a team, attacking on the flanks outside with two- or three-player combinations, and having someone in the middle who can finish.”
“This win gave us a lot of confidence,” Wiemers said. “We can’t be intimidated by the teams we play, not give up when we get down. But I’m excited about what this team can do.”