Relentless Tigers take 1-0 win

'Ugly' game, played at frantic pace, leads to satisfying victory over Durango

As Friday’s girls soccer game between Grand Junction and Durango progressed, it developed into something resembling extreme Ping-Pong.

Playing on an already battered field at Long Family Memorial Park, the squads tore it up further with their brutal back-and-forth.

The Tigers came out on top 1-0 in a game where relentless counter-attacks stopped only for rough tackles.

“We always know that they’re consistently one of the best teams in the league each year,” Grand Junction coach Joe Graham said. “At the end of the game, I think our team got tired. We’re low on subs this with injuries this time of year. The team got tired, so the tackles got uglier. We just had to hang on. I’m just proud they were able to finish the game.

“The first part of the game was pretty ugly. We were trying to possess the ball; it’s not a complex game. Durango was making it a track meet with their offense. Once we got it slowed down towards the end of the first half, and even a little in the second, we started generating chances.”

Leah Swander struck first, right before halftime. Her shot, dead-center on net, snuck into a small window between the crossbar and the goalie’s outstretched hands.

The top-spun goal coincided with the Tigers (4-7-2, 3-4-1) making a concerted effort to possess the ball, particularly in the midfield.

Swander nearly scored a second time, but she banged an open-net attempt off the right post.

Durango winger Lauren Milliet forced Grand Junction to play at a frantic pace when she had the ball. The sophomore played with pace, possessed well, and had a few narrow misses.

But ultimately, she was thwarted by Tigers goalkeeper Lupe Torres.

“I think when we go out on the field, we go out as a team, and we have a very clear idea of what we want to do strategically and apply that to the game,” Torres said. “We’re very good mentally, and I think the team will continue to improve the more we play together.”

Torres, who was converted into a goalkeeper last season, notched eight saves in her third shutout of the season. Two of her shutouts have been against Durango (9-4-1, 5-3-1).

“She’s just really naturally gifted,” Graham said. “We’ve put her in JV games to get her warmed up, and she’s made very few mistakes the last few weeks. When she makes mistakes, she’s quick to learn from them.”

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