MICHIGAN CITY — In the 20th minute of Michigan City's 5-0 win over Morgan Township on Saturday afternoon, Olivia Shinn found herself with open space on the left side of the pitch, sprinting toward the goal.
The junior forward and team captain had a streaking Mary Pat Kelley in the middle, planted her right foot and sent across a perfect ball for Kelley to ease into a wide-open net. Kelley whiffed after a tough bounce, turning the ball over.
Shinn briefly looked up at the sky, with an exhausted look on her face, wondering what more she had to do to put her team on the board. She was creating chance after chance for the Wolves early on, but to no avail.
"After that, I realized I should stop trying to give out all the passes and just take things into my own hands," Shinn said.
Three minutes later, Shinn's pressing determination paid off.
After outracing the Cherokees defense on a long through ball, she found herself inside and on the left side of the 18-yard box with just the goalkeeper to beat. The junior finessed a shot with some sidespin low and to the goalkeeper's left, hitting the back of the net for a goal, giving Michigan City a 1-0 lead.
Just five minutes later, Shinn found herself at the top of the 18. She turned over her right shoulder and fired a shot on the ground that found the back of the net for her second goal of the game.
At that point, why not go for a little heat check?
Three minutes before the half ended, Shinn controlled the ball about 25 to 30 yards out. In an attempt that seemed like more of a "Why not?" scenario, she booted a knuckling ball high and toward the right side of the goal. When you're hot, you're hot; and of course, that ball, too, beat the Morgan Township keeper.
"I really didn't even think those last two were going to go in," Shinn said, laughing. "I literally just did a move and kicked it and they just went in."
Shinn's improbable third goal of the first half gave her a hat trick, but one wouldn't know it by looking at the Wolves' captain. She simply turned around, straight-faced and got back into position to defend the upcoming Cherokees kickoff. One fan continously kept joking after Shinn's goals: "Can we at least get a smile?"
That stern leadership is how she's always been though.
"She really does (lead by example)," said Wolves head coach Mike Ramsey. "This year, she's really stepped it up. Her intensity level has been great. She's not really a rah-rah, go yell at people kind of captain. She's just gonna work hard, and she's a real leader that way. When she does that, the other girls pick it up and they play really hard. She's awesome."
By default, a team's best player is typically named one of the captains. And while such is certainly the case with Shinn, it's much deeper than that. It's rare to come by a junior captain in any sport, but Shinn's demeanor and willingness to step up sets an example of determination that's easy to follow.
Saturday's win marked the first home victory of the season for Michigan City, which expects to see a little more success following a difficult schedule to start the season. The Wolves will try to start a winning streak Tuesday when they host defending regional champion Valparaiso.