A cool breeze hung in the air at Twin Oaks Park as the Niceville High School girls’ soccer team went head-to-head with Arnold High School in their season opener.
The Niceville girls soccer program has long been known to produce teams stacked with talent year after year– and the 2023-2024 Varsity team is no exception. The team kept possession of the ball in Arnold’s half of the field for the majority of the game, racking up 15 shots on goal and 8 total points, causing the game to end in a mercy rule soon after the start of the second half.
Just minutes after kickoff, the Eagles put their first point on the scoreboard, courtesy of Sophia Edwards. In the couple of minutes that followed, a fatal mistake by Arnold resulted in an own-goal, giving Niceville their second point of the night.
Niceville’s Jezlyn Nelson, was the next player to put
the ball to the back of the net. After earning a starting spot on the Varsity team as a freshman last year, Nelson proved to be a significant asset to the team, putting up 21 shots on goal and 6 goals scored throughout the season.
Soon after, the Eagles scored yet again. This time it was by one of
Niceville’s key players, Taylor Kerle. Last season, Kerle earned a starting spot on the Varsity team as a freshman and proved to be a significant asset to the team. She scored 12 goals and earned the
title as the Eagles’ top scorer.
The fifth goal for the home team came with just ten minutes left on the game clock, courtesy of Arianna Jerz.
Jezlyn Nelson scored the final goal of the first half just minutes before the referee’s whistle sounded, giving Niceville a 6-0 lead as they headed into
As halftime came to a close, the Eagles took the field with the intent of scoring the final two goals required to secure a mercy rule win. Niceville’s Michelle Melancon, was responsible for the seventh goal for the home team, putting the score at 7-0.
Then, just twelve minutes after the start of the second half, Sophia Edwards found an open space and put the ball in the back of the net, finalizing a mercy rule win for the Eagles on their season debut.
In preparation for the two upcoming games, the Niceville girls soccer team will return to the practice field with a focus on “penetration to the final third [of the field] and executing more chances [toscore]”, Coach Richard Moore said. This coming Thursday, the team will travel to Tallahassee for a match against Lincoln High School, followed by a game on Friday against Chiles before heading back to the Nest.
Niceville will serve as the season opener for the Lincoln Trojans – who made it all the way to the State Semifinal last year. The Trojans defeated a much stronger Arnold team in the 5A Tournament last year, 3-0, before losing a close 1-nil match up to the state runners up Mariner. Team top scorer Paige Churchill, the Big Bend Conference Player of the Year, graduated and now plays for the Flagler College Saints in St. Augustine. Churchill holds the Lincoln Trojans’ all-time record for goals per game.
The Eagles will stay in Tallahassee for a game against Chiles as well. Chiles made it to the first round of the state tournament last year with an 11-8-1 record. They lost to the Gulf Breeze Dolphins in the first round of the state tournament – in double overtime. The Timberwolves return four of their five highest scorers on the season – as well as eight of the eleven players with the most minutes on the field last year.