GJ’s defense shuts down Central on soccer field
Zero is an absolute number. It leave leaves no room for debate, and to the Grand Junction girls soccer team, zero goals means they’re playing dominant defense.
The Tigers took their dominant defense a step further Tuesday, when they surrendered zero shots in the first half and zero shots on goal during the 1-0 victory over Central.
The typically offensive-minded Tigers (4-3, 3-2 Southwestern League), who average two goals per game, were contained by Central goalkeeper Marisa Brown. Despite 13 shots on goal, the Tigers had to rely on sturdy defense.
“The leadership of our junior captain Rabbit Hansen and the dedication of this team to getting better on defense won the game for us,” coach Joe Graham said. “In the first few games we’ve let a lot of goals in, so that’s been a focus in our practices.”
Grand Junction also limited turnovers. The Tigers only turned the ball over four times in the midfield, and kept Central (1-5-1, 0-3 SWL) outside the penalty box for the entire first half.
Junction’s goal came in the twelfth minute when Leah Swander broke free behind Centrals defense. Brown dove at Swander’s feet, but missed the ball. Swander stopped, and cut outside before tapping it goalward.
“We finally really found our team’s rhythm tonight,” Hansen said. “We really shined with how well we were covering for each other in the back. We typically play with four on the back with one of us playing up and one of us playing back, and it worked perfectly.”
Central notched the first two shots of the second half, but still couldn’t place it on net. Kindred Michael broke free twice and pushed the possession in favor of Central. For the first 10 minutes of the half, Central controlled the ball, but couldn’t break free of Grand Junction’s defense.
“We held our heads high,” Central coach Jacob Pingel said. “We didn’t get pushed around. These girls are still young soccer-wise, Our lack of offense is just a growth factor.”
Grand Junction focused on taking deep shots because the Central defenders were packed close together, essentially eliminating Junction breakaways the entire second half.
“We took a lot of shots from outside because the defenders were clustered in so close,” Graham said. “Their goalie did a wonderful job deflecting and scooping up loose balls. Sometimes one mental error (by a goalie) can kill a team’s chances, but that didn’t happen with her.”
Grand Junction has a nonleague home game against Basalt before hosting Fruita Monument. Central will look for it’s first conference win in a home game against Fruita on Thursday. Fruita sits a half-game behind Durango at the top of the SWL standings.