During the Women’s Premier League season opener on the turf pitch at Infinity Park, she thrived under new coach Michael Fealey’s system and scored once and assisted on a handful of others in the Raptors 52-14 win over the San Diego Surfers.
“Her passing and decision-making, whilst not bad last week, were almost unrecognizable this week,” Fealey said. “There was obviously a lightbulb moment at some point during practice this week because she was like a different player.”
But who was this Rodriguez-Howard — this sudden titan of the turf? And who let her out her box?
Whoever, she certainly sparked a team that’d given up 32 points — 25 of which in the second half — in what was supposed to be a heavily-tilted friendly against the Black Ice last weekend.
The 26-year-old back looked flawless on Saturday — and for the most part, the rest of the Raptors (1-0) followed suit.
In the first game that really mattered in 2014, Fealey’s bunch wasn’t exposed like it had been last week, as Hannah Stolba’s four penalties, five conversions and one try, and scores by Taryn Brennan and Jenna Anderson helped lead the women’s team to an in-your-face 46-0 lead after an hour of play.
From there, the Surfers (0-1) cut into the deficit with scores from Haley Barclay and Chun Chow, but the damage had already been done … and then some.
“We’re beginning to understand all the things we’re working on and the new things we’ve introduced to the players,” Fealey said. “It’s all about buying in, and once we have it from all the players, for the full 80 minutes, I think we’ll become very dangerous indeed.”
The Raptors hit the road and face Oregon Sports Union (1-0) near Portland next Saturday.