The Maple Grove Lady Red Dragons used an impressive first-half effort, opened up a comfortable 4-0 lead and cruised to a 4-1 West Division soccer victory over Southwestern on Thursday night at Dutch Hollow Road.
"The first half we played with a lot of fire, and won a lot of the 50/50 balls,'' Maple Grove coach Mike Burr said. ''I was happy with our effort."
Emma Franzcak and Emily Swanson led the way in the decisive opening half to help the Lady Red Dragons improve their record to 11-2 overall and 10-2 in the division.
Maple Grove’s Olivia Richardson races past Southwestern’s Meghan Spirek during Thursday night’s West Division girls soccer game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jay Young
The Lady Trojans fell to 4-8-1 and 4-7.
Franzcak, Maple Grove's captain, had a dominant performance that began with two early scoring chances that were both narrowly called offside. Britta Johnson of the Lady Trojans was forced to make her first save of the evening off another good scoring chance from Katie Braund in the 15th minute. Just two minutes later, Franzcak netted the opening goal on an unassisted shot from the left corner of the box.
After going down by one, Southwestern res-ponded well with an opportunity on a corner that was cleared by the Maple Grove defense. Shortly after, Swanson found the back of the net in the 20th minute and put Maple Grove in control, 2-0.
Swanson's goal opened the floodgates for the Maple Grove offense, as the Lady Red Dragons added two more goals in the closing minutes of the first half. Braund was able to find the back of the net on an assist from Swanson, while Sarah Pardue added another score on a well-timed through ball from Chloe Kibbe.
The Lady Trojans kept fighting until the final minutes of the half, forcing keeper Brianne Davis to make a stop on a free kick.
The second half was a different story for the Lady Trojans. After turning away a good shot from Maple Grove's Franzcak in the opening minutes, the Southwestern defense went into shutdown mode.
Burr reflected on the change in play by noting, "The second half was pretty high-spirited. They didn't roll over. They played tough."
After the high-scoring first half, Maple Grove was repeatedly denied on several good opportunities in the second. Captain Alison Winchester placed a well-struck outside shot on net midway through the period, while Franzcak continued to put on pressure until the end of the game.
The resilience of the Lady Trojans finally paid off in the 30th minute of the second half when Brittany Feldman's first shot of the day found its way past Davis. The goal ended a well fought battle for Southwestern.
"The scoreboard is there for the fans,'' Lady Trojans coach Derek Houser said. ''We just wanted to come out and play our game."
Davis of Maple Grove recorded four saves in the victory while Johnson stopped 10 balls for the Lady Trojans.