MENIFEE — Mackenzie Akins knows her fiery style of play draws the ire of opposing teams — and an occasional referee — throughout the Sunbelt League. It also gives Lakeside's senior forward an edge few can match.
"I have a lot of friends at Temescal, but on the field, I don't have any friends," Akins said after overcoming four offsides calls, a yellow card and lots of bumping and chirping with the opposition to score both of her team's goals in the Lancers' 2-1 victory over Paloma Valley on Friday. "I play to win. I don't take it easy on anyone. I always play my hardest.
"Whatever they say, whatever the refs do, I just play my hardest and try to score more."
On Friday, Akins scored more 10 minutes after up-and-coming Paloma Valley freshman Krista Meza one-timed Melody Gonzalez's corner kick to tie the game 1-1 in the 59th minute.
Faced with having to settle for a tie that would have log-jammed the top of the Sunbelt League standings, Lakeside's offense upped the pressure in the waning minutes. Lancers senior Bailey Bowe won a goal-kick challenge with a Wildcats defender and headed the ball up the field to create a one-on-one opportunity for Akins. Naturally, Akins didn't miss, booting the ball past Paloma Valley keeper Lauren Dorr for the go-ahead goal that sent Lakeside to a 4-0 start in league heading into next week's matchup with defending champion Temescal Canyon (8-7-1, 3-1).
The Lancers' only league loss in the last four years came at the hands of the Titans last year.
"We both knew coming in that this was going to be a big one for us," said Lakeside coach Brian Henderson, whose Lancers (9-6-4, 4-0) are a game ahead of Paloma Valley (5-10-1, 3-1) in the standings. "We knew they were going to be ready to knock us down. Our girls played great and played an outstanding game."
The effort one-upped a Paloma Valley team coming off the high of a 2-1 victory over Temescal Canyon on Wednesday, and the Wildcats had ample opportunities to put the ball through the goal throughout Friday's contest. In fact, Paloma Valley out-shot Lakeside 13-9 but had nothing to show for it until Meza's equalizer in the second half.
Trouble is, Paloma Valley coach Marie Dillon — who declined to comment — didn't have an answer for Akins, who returned from a yellow card in the 54th minute (she said she told the ref she wasn't offsides after getting whistled for the infraction for a fourth time) to notch her fifth multi-goal game of the season. Her first score Friday came off an upfield feed from Jasmine Garcia in the 35th minute.
"She is fiery, and that's the competitiveness in her," Henderson said of Akins, whose 24 goals tie her for the Valley lead with Temecula Valley's Jordan Francescon. "She doesn't like losing. She can't take it. She gets fired up. You have to have that in order to be that successful. ... (Paloma Valley) knows her very well. Their goal is to shut her down, and for her to get some goals today is a testament to how good she is."
And how warm-blooded she is. Sometimes to a fault, Akins admitted with a smile.
Not that Akins is about to change a thing.
"My frustration sometimes gets the best of me," she said. "Even my coach says sometimes I need to calm down. But I'm the kind of player that when I get mad, I play harder. When I get frustrated, I play harder."