Girls Soccer: Lyla Khanthachack keys offense for improved Cruisers

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Groveport girls soccer standout Lyla Khanthachack was tasked with being more "selfish" this year as she moved to forward from midfielder and took a leadership role in the offense. Khanthachack led the Cruisers in goals entering the week.

Lyla Khanthachack doesn’t consider selfishness to be one of her personality traits, but to some extent it is in her job description as a forward for the Groveport Madison girls soccer team.

The senior smiles and admits that setting up her teammates comes just as easily as going for a goal herself, even if coach Mark Coyer might not always want her to make an extra pass.

“That can be difficult for me. I like to pass and share the glory,” Khanthachack said. “If I have a better pass than (chance) to shoot, I’ll pass instead of shooting.”

Khanthachack’s 10 goals and six assists through eight games led a Cruisers team that already has exceeded last year’s win total. Groveport, which went 2-15 in 2019, was 3-5 overall and 0-2 in the OCC-Buckeye Division before playing Pickerington Central on Oct. 1.

A four-year varsity player, Khanthachack was a left wing as a freshman and a midfielder the past two seasons before moving up top this year.

“She’s always been the best or second-best player on the team since she started. She’s been our best player for two years, at least,” Coyer said. “Her playing since she was 5 or so has made her smart. She has great ball control. She can be a little shy vocally but she leads by example. She does things herself and leads that way.

“She’ll play a ball into space and let a girl run to it. She’ll have good touch (and puts) good weight to a ball to where a ball will slow down and let a player catch up. She’s just a smart soccer player.”

Khanthachack said the adjustment from midfielder to forward has been minimal, other than picking her spots when she shoots.

“I knew I wasn’t going to shoot that much because I played left wing and then center midfielder and then forward, so now I know that I have to score because that’s the job at that position,” Khanthachack said. “I was an attacking mid last year. I had to adjust (to forward) a little bit because before, I had to cross (the ball). But now I have to shoot and pick corners more. Before, I just shot at the goalie and then I got better at aiming for corners.”

Khanthachack scored the only goal during a 1-0 victory over Teays Valley in the opener on Aug. 22 at home, but she went down awkwardly with less than two minutes to play and had to be walked off the field by a trainer and assistant coach. What initially looked like it might be a severe injury turned out to be a bruised left foot, however.

“I went to shoot and (a Vikings player) stepped on my foot,” Khanthachack said. “It hurt for a couple days, but it’s fine now.”

She had a four-goal game two weeks later in a 6-0 win at Hamilton Township, and also scored twice in an 8-3 loss at Reynoldsburg to open league play Sept. 15.

“She’s really good at taking shots whenever anyone passes her the ball. She’s always there when you need her,” midfielder Jennifer Perez said. “She’s smart with the ball. If she doesn’t have a good angle, she’ll pass to somebody else. She can finish though, too. That’s so important for our team to have.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave