Fit to be tied
Central, GJ play to entertaining, back-and-forth tie
Teresa Giandonato let rip on a direct kick from 30 yards out, sending the ball skimming over the crossbar.
That’s how close Central came, about eight inches, to stealing a win from Grand Junction on Thursday night before settling for a 4-4 tie in Southwestern League girls soccer at Walker Field.
The Tigers (4-3-1, 2-1-1 SWL) controlled possession with their midfield, which, for the better part of the game, Central struggled to push off the ball.
Grand Junction’s Taylor Chaffetz danced her way to a top-corner finish out of the midfield, making five defenders miss before blasting a shot high into the right side of the net.
The Tigers’ Leah Swander, despite various leg injuries, came alive with two goals on long runs from the midfield. And Taylor Kochevar’s indirect kick from the midfield found Chaffetz’s head before Taylor Hein slammed in the rebound.
But during regulation, Central (4-4-1, 2-4-1 SWL) had an answer for each goal.
Kristal Milholland caught the Grand Junction defense on a high line and burnt them up the right wing for a goal. Giandonato found the net on a 25-yard blast seconds before halftime to tie the game 2-2. Jaylynn Medina, immediately after halftime, stopped a clearance and lined a shot into the left side of the net.
With a 3-2 lead, the Warriors gave up two goals before Rylea Rottmann jammed home a late goal to knot it up 4-4.
From there, Central ramped up the pressure.
“This team guts it out,” Warriors coach Jacob Pingel said. “Boy, do they work. Rylea had that dirty goal in the box, and that momentum — I thought we had momentum after that. It was huge.”
Late in regulation and during the overtime period, Central brought people up on attack, at times running a 3-3-4 formation, utilizing four forwards.
But Grand Junction goalie Lupe Torres kept the Tigers in it. Near the end of regulation, Medina stuffed another clearing attempt, gathered it at the top of the penalty box and shot, but Torres made a diving save.
Midway through overtime, Rottmann broke free behind the Grand Junction defense, and Torres made a lunging save to stuff the potential game-winner. The ball rolled up her arms and hit her in the face before she was able to corral the ball.
“Lupe was amazing,” Pingel said. “I thought we had it, but she had an amazing game.”
Grand Junction coach Joe Graham agreed with Pingel.
“She was huge,” Graham said of Torres. “She was playing with contacts for the first time; she had been playing with poor vision there for a while. She makes those plays down low for us, those tough plays, and it was so big in this game.”
Graham said although his team controlled possession, he credited Central for its late push. He added the Tigers are still learning to play as a unit.
“We weren’t really getting in close enough to create great chances,” Graham said. “Central just played really hard through the second half and through both overtimes and almost had the win because they were playing so hard. They were so hungry, and that’s where I feel like our team is still working to work together, for in this case, a full 100 minutes. Keeping our foot on the gas through the entire game.”
A big reason Grand Junction struggled to force its way into the penalty box was the strong defensive play of Central’s midfield. Pingel pointed to Giandonato and Jessica Funk as key contributors in the defensive success.
“Sam Melchor and Taylor Chaffetz have been ripping people apart,” Pingel said of the Tigers’ midfield. “Our two center mids, Teresa Giandonato and J.P. Funk, man, they worked their butts off to limit what (Melchor and Chaffetz) could do, and I thought they did a wonderful job with that tonight.”