LAKE ELSINORE — Mackenzie Akins admits she doesn't have a lot of friends throughout the Sunbelt League. Animosity often goes hand-in-hand with hat tricks.
Akins scored three goals, Bailey Bowe added another and Lakeside High's girls soccer team streaked to an undefeated start to their Sunbelt League campaign with a 4-1 victory over visiting Temescal Canyon on Wednesday afternoon in a win that both avenged last year's loss to the Titans and placed the circuit's top billing solely in the Lancers' hands.
"I know their whole team hates me, so it's kind of cool that I got three goals on them," said Akins, who leads the Valley with 27 goals. "It's a little bit of personal satisfaction. They are a good team. Those weren't easy goals to get."
The Lancers learned that the hard way last year, when Boise State-bound Kayla Tucker's hat trick catapulted Temescal Canyon to a 4-3 victory in a game that saw an aggressive and emotional Akins pick up two yellow cards and an ejection. That loss, the Lancers' first in league since 2008, combined with a tie with Elsinore ultimately handed the league crown to Temescal Canyon, and the Lancers found settling for second place especially hard to swallow.
"Last year, we lost league and that was just the biggest disappointment," said Akins, who has flipped her college commitment from Nevada to Montana. "A lot of us on this team can't stand losing. We just can't stand it."
They didn't let it happen again Wednesday.
In fact, the Lancers (10-6-4, 5-0) didn't leave the Titans (8-8-1, 3-2) much margin for error, with Bowe scoring her ninth goal of the season in the game's sixth minute, Akins scoring in the 20th minute and Lakeside's defense limiting Temescal Canyon to one shot on goal in the first half — which freshman Marissa Everett put into the back of the net after winning a breakaway challenge in the 37th minute.
"Mackenzie's a very talented kid, and Bailey definitely played with all her heart today, but I'm going to wear (this loss) on our defense and our team," said Temescal Canyon coach Jessica Nelson, whose team was outshot, 8-6, in the game. "We had a few letdowns. It's not like they were raining shots on us the whole game. It was a matter of one second where our defense turned its back or lets down.
"Mackenzie is not going to let one goal slip. Neither is Bailey."
Mackenzie certainly didn't in the second half, cleaning up a rebound in the opening minute for a 3-1 lead and later splitting two defenders to sneak a left-footed shot past Titans keeper Maegan Ariaz for her third goal of the game.
Temescal Canyon, meanwhile, struggled to generate much offense inside the Lancers' penalty box, with the bulk of the Titans' perimeter shots falling harmlessly in the hands of keeper Michelle Vazquez (five saves).
"We do an amazing job of ball possession; we are very skilled on the ground," Nelson said. "But we are having trouble penetrating that 18 this season. You'll see our shot count is lower. It's something we have to work on."