LINCOLN CITY — In its most competitive week of the season to date, the Heritage Hills girls soccer squad narrowly missed out on a sweep of Forest Park and Gibson Southern.
Last year these three programs earned a share of the Pocket Athletic Conference.
The Class 2A-No. 18 Patriots (3-2-1, 3-1) notched a 2-1 overtime win over the Rangers earlier in the week but fell to the No. 12 Titans 1-0 on Saturday.
The winner came from a free kick just outside the box by junior Claire Higginbotham in the 21st minute as she curled it to the near-right top shelf.
The Titans came into the match scoring 33 goals through seven matches but were put on their heels by the Pats.
Through the first 16 minutes, the Pats had the lion's share of possession, but were unable to turn that into quality chances as a pair of forwards were left on an island with the midfield sometimes 30 yards behind as they attacked.
Some of that can be chalked up to injuries on the outside and up top coming in from freshman Adi Canen, sophomore Alicia Fortune, sophomore Anna Klueh and freshman Addie Asbury.
"We're banged up real bad," coach Andy Fischer said. "In the last week, we've had four injuries happen and all those have happened with girls that are (up) top in our offensive attack. We are working through some things, they are picking up their game, they are playing in some positions that they are not used to and learning as we go."
The closing 40 minutes saw Heritage Hills pour on pressure with shots on frame.
"First half, I thought we were playing a little flat," Fischer said. "Second half, the girls came out with more aggression and more determination to be the first to the ball. We had opportunities, we just got to capitalize on those opportunities."
The flow left them susceptible to counterattacks.
In the 53rd minute, Titans freshman Kenzie Shellhaas collected the ball and ran at the Pats on the break before feeding junior Ella Jones for a breakaway that she slotted wide with just the keeper junior Ally Schipp to beat.
Five minutes later, Jones and Shellhaas worked a give-and-go in the box that Jones slammed low against the far post that caromed back to the area it came from and junior Jenna Loyd's rebound was sliced wide of the opposite post.
The catalyst and combination that nearly proved lethal as the Pats prodded for an equalizer were juniors Molly Schnieders and Norway foreign-exchange student Tonje Hide.
"The second half we had more of an edge," Schnieders said. "We were so much faster to the ball, we went to it. We tried playing to feet. We were a lot more aggressive and we kept going even though we couldn't get that (tying goal)."
Schnieders dropped deep into the midfield just in front of the backline to pick up the ball and distribute. She also won tackles higher up the pitch to spray through passes.
Her favorite target for through balls was Hide on the left flank.
"She's really fast, she has skill," Schnieders said. "She can get us crosses so we can get goals."
In the 68th minute, she sprung Hide with a pass directed to the corner that Hide had to run nearly 35 yards to track down and took touches before her shot was pushed over the bar.
Runs like these were made several times by Hid in the half.
"I told the girls, 'You (have) to find something down deep,'" Fischer said. "She was giving everything she's got. I think that actually fed the other girls too. It kind of helped bring some more energy and we need some other girls to be doing that."
The Patriots had ample chances to get a touch in front of the net on several corner kicks but couldn't produce the final product.
On Tuesday, Heritage Hills is slated to travel to Ramsey to face North Harrison.
"We really stepped it up in the second half," Hide said. "We got to play more, and Molly had some amazing balls to me. We worked better as a team, communicated better and just really pushed hard."