By DANIEL MAKAREWICZ
Special to the Herald-Whig
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. -- Frigid temperatures and an unexpected deficit put the Quincy High School girls soccer team in need of a response on Monday afternoon.
Forty-four seconds later, the Blue Devils answered the challenge.
Moments after Rock Island Alleman took the lead on its first shot of the match, QHS countered with a tying goal from Haylee McNay. By quickly regaining the momentum, the Blue Devils thwarted any chance of an upset and cruised to a 5-1 Western Big Six Conference win over Alleman at Augustana College's Thorson-Lucken Field.
"You always have doubts when you're going through a tough situation," said QHS junior forward Kayleigh Kuhlman, who assisted McNay's match-tying goal in the 24th minute. "But you have to keep it in your mind that you've done it before and you have to do it again."
That was exactly what QHS coach Travis Dinkheller wanted to see.
"It was good we responded quickly," Dinkheller said.
QHS (1-0, 1-0 WB6) scored the final five goals to beat Alleman for the 10th consecutive meeting and extend its league unbeaten streak to 41 matches. However, there were some doubts in the early moments.
Despite starting five freshmen and two sophomores, the Pioneers (0-1, 0-1) took the lead when Olivia Gonzalez slipped past the defense and converted a Raven Wyatt feed for a goal in the 23rd minute.
Before that, the Pioneers had not scored against QHS since April 12, 2010.
"It was pretty exciting," Gonzalez, a sophomore forward, said. "It was a shock."
The lead didn't last long.
McNay received a pass from Kuhlman on the left wing and scored to the near post, tying the match and putting momentum back in the Blue Devils' hands.
"After they scored," Kuhlman said, "it fueled our fire that we had to kick it in and do what we do best, which is play our system and score goals."
Kuhlman set the tone.
Twice in a two-minute span, Kuhlman stood near the middle of the field and scored off MJ Garkie passes. The first shot in the 47th minute was lofted over Alleman keeper Macy Hoskins from 25 yards out to break the tie.
The second one was a low strike to the left post on a shot taken from just inside the penalty area that increased the lead to 3-1.
"That's part of playing the game," Kuhlman said. "You have to see your position and where your spot is. You have to be able to find your space and take the chances you get."
In the second half, the Blue Devils converted their chances. QHS scored four times -- Jordan Eisenberg and Kayla Bunch added goals in a five-minute span late in the half -- on nine shots.
"We did really well in the first half," Gonzalez said. "We tried sticking with them, but we kind of fell apart."
Backed into a corner early, the Blue Devils held strong to open the season with a solid performance.
"A great start," Dinkheller said. "Anytime you can win a conference game is big. But to do it in the conditions we did it in is good."