Three days ago the Maple Grove Red Dragons did something they haven't really been accustomed to this season.
They lost a soccer game.
After going unbeaten in each of their first 12 outings, the Red Dragons' battle with host North Collins on Tuesday went into double overtime before, with just four minutes remaining, a North Collins player beat goalkeeper Kyle Richardson to break the scoreless tie and hand Maple Grove its first defeat of the season.
Maple Grove’s Riley Beaton heads a ball during Thursday’s Division 3 soccer game against Frewsburg. At left is the Bears’ Dereck Smith. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J?photo by Rob Tucker
But, as coach Kevin Beaton explained on Thursday, sometimes - just sometimes - a loss isn't as bad as it's made out to be.
"That loss was a very good learning experience," he said. "The boys didn't feel good after that game. We like how we feel when we win and it doesn't feel so good when we lose. So, in a sense, maybe it wasn't a bad loss. You never want to lose, but we learned some stuff about ourselves."
So when Beaton's squad welcomed Frewsburg (7-6, 5-5) to the field on the Dutch Hollow Road, their aim was to get the good feeling that comes with victory back, and fast.
Fourteen minutes later, Maple Grove led, 1-0, and 66 minutes after that the Red Dragons had blanked the Bears, 4-0.
"I think they (responded to the loss) really well," Beaton said. "We talked a little bit after (the North Collins) game and talked before this one and corrected a few things. It was important for us to get off to a good start and get a few goals."
Erik Olson, taking his coach's "quick-start" message to heart, helped his squad get on the board in the 14th minute. Awarded a free kick outside the area along the left sideline, Olson set the ball down at the spot of the foul, but didn't waste any time allowing the Bears to figure out who it was they were going to mark.
Instead, the left-footed senior quickly sent a low pass to right at teammate Riley Beaton's foot in front of the net and Beaton simply redirected the ball by the Frewsburg goalie.
"Sometimes on those free kicks the kids will wait," Coach Beaton explained, "but (Erik) got rid of the ball very quickly and we had good penetration in front of the net. I think there was some surprise there for sure. It was definitely a smart play."
Ten minutes later Nick Hutchenson scored, thanks to an assist by Beaton, and Maple Grove led at the break by a pair.
With a two-goal lead the Red Dragons were content to possess and pass the ball to victory over the final 40 minutes of play. While Frewsburg, which finished with just five shots on goal, was unable to maintain any prolonged pressure in their offensive end, Maple Grove broke through for its third and fourth tallies late in the game.
After gaining possession of a pass from Jesse Pardue, Nick Swanson, alone behind the Frewsburg defense, fired a shot off the post, but the ricochet came right back to him and he didn't waste a second opportunity, burying the ball into the back right corner of the net. Less than a minute later, Olson delivered his team-leading 11th goal of the season from Andy Farnham.
The victory improved the Division 3 front-runners to a 12-1-1 record overall and a 9-1-1 record in league. With just two more games until the end of the regular season (the next is at West Valley on Tuesday), Beaton is pleased with where his team is at with playoffs just around the corner.
"We're trying to build," he said. "There was a little hiccup at North Collins, but like I said, we learned from it. There were some great coaching moments that came from it and you've just got to keep building towards the playoffs. That's all we're trying to do."