HARTLAND — Without a pure scorer on the roster this season, the Hartland girls soccer team had to test out different formations and styles of play to optimize their goal-scoring potential.
The Eagles were fortunate to land on a system that heavily features Jenna Halonen.
“She’s been really big, especially lately,” said Hartland coach Andrew Kartsounes after Halonen scored two goals in the team’s 4-1 win over Holt in its district opener on Tuesday night.
“We played several different systems and the last system, she’s our center forward so she’s been able to score a lot of goals in our last few games. She’s putting up big numbers, and forward is not her natural position. But it’s where we need her to contribute.”
Halonen plays center midfield for her club soccer team. Thanks to her defensive prowess that she’s exhibited while playing there for Hartland early in her career, plus a wealth of scorers and midfielders over the past couple seasons, Kartsounes actually had Halonen manning the back line.
That’s certainly not the case anymore, as she’s made the leap to being front and center.
“Our system was one where our outside (midfielders) push forward and play defense and offense, so she’s been one of the main ones,” Kartsounes said.
“This year, we started her out at center-mid, but we needed someone that could hold the ball and score. That’s what she’s been able to do.”
Halonen scored twice for Hartland in its playoff win over the Rams, a victory that propelled the Eagles to the district semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday against local rival Howell at Parker Middle School.
She got the Eagles on the board early in the first half before Kylie Hughes made it a two-goal lead with a deep shot outside of the box following a cross that caromed off a few players and directly out to her. Holt would cut the deficit to one at the half.
However, Hartland would stay in attack mode.
“I thought we played pretty well. We dominated play and we carried the ball, created lots of chances today, and had lots of shots and lots of opportunities,” Kartsounes said. “Holt held in there well and scored late in the first, but we kept applying pressure.”
Along with Halonen, Kennady Kuhlman also found the back of the net in the second half for Hartland.
Hartland’s matchup with Howell will be its third of the season, the last two being 3-0 victories in favor of the Eagles. However, teams constantly preach the difficulty of defeating a team three times in a season, and this meeting will come on Howell’s home turf.
“It’s always hard to play Howell,” Kartsounes said. “Especially when you play at their place on that turf. They’re good on it, and they know how the field works. At Hartland, we didn’t have any turf to practice on. We’re planning on getting there early and getting work in so we’re ready for the surface.”