Early goal holds up in Wildcats’ key victory

Facing daunting on-ball pressure Saturday afternoon, the Fruita Monument High School girls soccer team scrambled after the opening kickoff to keep the ball from the relentless hounding of Durango’s defense.

The first four passes after the kickoff were whipped in a small square, just ahead of the chasing Demons until, all of a sudden, the ball flew from the foot of Wildcat midfielder Katie Smith as three defenders converged on her.

The rolling through-ball hit Michaela Dangler on a run up the left wing and, after taking a few strides, Dangler buried a left-footed shot in the bottom-right corner of the net to give the Wildcats an early lead. The goal in the first minute held in Fruita Monument’s 1-0 victory at its on-campus soccer field.

Fruita Monument coach Alex Garza said his team was focused on good movement in the face of pressure.

“It was big,” Garza said. “We’ve been working on handling that all week, especially after we lost to them in Durango. To get that control and that off-ball movement was huge. It’s a good feeling.”

The Demons (7-4, 3-1 Southwestern League) toned down their pressure after the opening surge and instead made probing counterattacks against the Wildcats (6-2, 3-1). In the second half, Durango’s attacks were aided by a strong west-to-east wind that blew the ball toward the goal Fruita was defending.

Garza said the back line was patient and aware, not letting any wind-aided lobs sail behind it, and also credited goalkeeping for the low-scoring win.

“We had a tough lesson in this last year when we lost to Monarch on a long, over-the-top goal in a wind like this,” Garza said. “On a fast surface like this, I think that’s always kinda in the back of our head when the wind picks up. We drop the back line and try to keep things from going over the top.”

During the first half, with the wind at their backs, the Wildcats had several early scoring opportunities that didn’t quite connect.

Durango’s starting goalkeeper crashed into a Fruita forward to stop an opportunity early in the first half. The knee of the Fruita player struck the head of the Durango goalkeeper, who exited the game and didn’t return.

The Demons had a few clean opportunities on net, including a couple of shots inside the penalty box that whizzed just wide of the frame, but much of Durango’s chances were long-range shots, or snuffed out by Fruita’s defense before the Demons could even fire a shot.

Both teams will likely make the playoffs, but the Demons hold the SWL tiebreaker for a potential league championship. Durango has four games remaining — two each against Grand Junction and Central. Fruita has seven games left — four in league play — and travels to face Montrose for a 5 p.m. kickoff Tuesday.

Track and Field

Paonia won the girls title at the Glenwood Springs Invitational with two-time Class 2A defending state champ Brianna Van Vleet winning the long jump at 17 feet, 11¾ inches. Senior Sophia Anderson was a triple winner in the 100 meters (12.99), 200 (26.51) and triple jump (35-5¾).

Delta’s Lily Lockhart was a double winner in the shot put (42-2¾) and discus (132-9). Montrose was second in the team standings with Madisyn Minerich winning the 400 in 59.67.

On the boys side, Fruita Monument’s Gunner Rigsby won the long jump (23-3¼) and triple jump (46-10).  Ian Meek of Montrose set a meet record in the 1,600, winning in 4:23.38.

Girls soccer

Grand Junction won its third straight with a 2-0 victory over Kennedy. Taylor Hein scored both goals for the Tigers (6-2).

GIRLS LACROSSE

Fruita Monument lost to Rocky Mountain, 18-7. Sonja Tierney scored three goals and helped out with draw controls as the Wildcats (1-10) played well against the Lobos (5-3).

Baseball

Rifle swept a doubleheader over Glenwood Springs, 5-4, 11-3, to keep the Bears (9-4, 5-2 Class 4A Western Slope League) in the race for the WSL title.

Glenwood Springs (5-7, 3-4) lost the first game on a seventh-inning balk.


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