Ask the Falconer Lady Golden Falcons from where their offensive success has sprung this season - the squad, entering their Thursday afternoon matchup with Maple Grove, had averaged a whopping six goals per contest - and it doesn't take long for them to pinpoint the culprit.
"We have a team that loves to play together," Falconer goalkeeper Macey Mays said. "We're all sisters. We're family."
And it was that close-knit bond amongst teammates that helped Falconer achieve something that hadn't been managed in league play against the Lady Red Dragons in three years: a victory.
The Falconer Lady Golden Falcons were using their heads and feet in a West Division girls soccer win over Maple Grove on Thursday. At left, Kaylee Keith heads the ball and at right, Rhea Moore moves the ball up the field. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
With a strong wind at their backs, powerful shots on goal and a crisp and fluid passing attack, the Lady Golden Falcons continued their early-season run of finding the back of the net with ease, tallying three goals over a six-minute span late in the first half to blank their West Division foes, 3-0.
The victory improved Falconer's record to 3-0-1 overall and 2-0-0 in the (newly formed this year) league, and gives them 21 goals scored through four games. Maple Grove, meanwhile, falls to 2-1 after suffering its first league loss since 2009.
This was the first meeting between Falconer, a Class B team, and Maple Grove, a Class C team, since the 2010 season.
"I can't remember the last time I had to call in a (league) game and say we lost," Maple Grove coach Mike Burr said with a laugh. "We held our ground for the first 20-some minutes, unfortunately after that we got some bad bounces and (Falconer) just flat out executed better than we did."
Falconer, which boasts three players in the top-10 for scoring in the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association, struck with what would turn out to be the game-winning goal at the 27th minute, when Emma Steele, perhaps with a little aid from the aforementioned gusting wind, fired a long throw-in into the Maple Grove area right to teammate Kelly Keefe's foot.
Keefe did the rest, ripping a low shot past diving goaltender Brianne Davis to give the Lady Golden Falcons the 1-0 advantage.
Steele didn't waste any time in getting her name back on the stat sheet.
The sophomore, a mere 58 seconds later, won possession of a loose ball - Maple Grove was unable to clear the ball from its zone - and from about 25 yards out drilled a shot that slammed into the upper corner of the goal - where the crossbar meets the post - before it ricocheted into ground and bounced across the line for the sudden 2-0 lead.
The tally was Steele's sixth of the season, and combined with the previous assist (her fourth), it moved her alone into second place in the CCAA in scoring.
"How many times did we miss the ball (when trying to clear it out of our zone)," Burr wondered. "It must have been 10 times. And that was how they scored all three of their goals. If we play calmer, like we did in the first 25 minutes, maybe we hold them scoreless and then its a much different game."
Randi Greene put the finishing touches on the victory in the 33rd when Sydney Moore made a run down the right sideline and then fed the ball inside to teammate Andrea Volk, who carried it a little further before chipping it past a Maple Grove defender and into the middle towards Greene.
Greene's subsequent shot slid past Davis into the lower right corner.
Maple Grove would regroup in the second half, outshooting the visitors 5-1, but despite the pressure it still was unable to solve Mays, who finished the game with eight saves and has now, through 282 minutes this season, surrendered just one goal.
"I was proud of the second half," Burr said. "They gave everything they had and they played as hard as they could. We're still young (Maple Grove doesn't have a single senior on its roster) and I told them we need to grow from this, learn from our mistakes and just get better.
"It was just not our day, and sometimes that happens. We didn't execute well and Falconer did. Plain and simple."