Unique formation helps Fruita beat Grand Junction
A knee injury apiece for the Grand Junction and Fruita Monument girls soccer teams meant each coach had to adjust for Tuesday’s game at Walker Field.
Fruita lost Courtney Coffee to a season-ending knee injury recently, forcing the Wildcats to get creative in her absence.
Grand Junction forward Leah Swander tweaked her knee last week, and although she was cleared to return to action against Fruita, it was in a limited role.
Tuesday, the Wildcats’ adjustment carried it to a 2-0 Southwestern League victory.
Fruita coach Eric Anderson used a 4-5-1 formation with five midfielders, including three center midfielders. The formation helped the Wildcats (5-3-1, 3-1-1) create chances in the middle of the field with quick passes, rather than create scoring chances from the wing.
It also has allowed Fruita to focus on distance shots, such as the one freshman Jordan Padgett banged in: a looping shot off the crossbar from 20 yards out to open the second half, giving the Wildcats the lead.
Anderson said he thinks the three center midfielders have the potential to be the best in the league.
“Padgett, you know, she’s been huge for this program,” Anderson said. “She plays almost every minute of every game, very talented player as well. You have Megan Hale and Sarah Benton who perform at their top level all the time, too.
“We have one of the best central midfields in our conference, I feel like. Those three work well together. We’re definitely missing Coffee, but they’re making up for it.”
Jennis Hart scored a late goal to seal the victory for Fruita. She found space on the right side of the field and crossed a shot to the lower, left corner about a minute before stoppage time.
“It’s been this way every game for us, but we just start really slow,” Anderson said. “Junction came out in the first 15 minutes, and we’re flying around. At halftime I think we realized that it’s a rivalry game. If you step on this field you’re going to have to play our style of game, possession soccer. They rebounded in the second half, and started to play our game.”
Grand Junction (2-6-1, 1-3-1) used Swander in short bursts, about 10 minutes at a time, and she totaled about 30 minutes for the game. The Tigers could have used more minutes from the sophomore forward, though, as she’s been a creative spark for the offense this season, scoring five of the team’s 12 goals.
Tuesday, Grand Junction was limited to one shot on goal.
“We wanted to give her limited time so she didn’t strain (her injury),” Grand Junction coach Joe Graham said. “She’d come in for no more than 10 minutes at a time, and yeah, she was limited. But I was glad she was able to come out. It’s a really good sign.”