Practice pays off for Tigers in 2-1 win
Monday afternoon, Grand Junction High School defender Matt Leach spent a half hour kicking balls at the goal from outside the penalty area.
Tuesday night, the practice paid off when Leach scored the winning goal for the Tigers in a 2-1 win over Fruita Monument at Walker Field.
“I don’t think I’ve smiled like this for a while,” Leach said. “Playing defense I don’t get up there all that often. I’ve been practicing that kick all year and it finally got in.”
Leach’s goal came in the 54th minute, after a penalty. He lined up for the free kick outside the penalty area and put the ball just over the hands of Fruita goalie Trevor Allen.
“(Leach) has the same type of strike on the ball that I used to have, which I admired right off the bat,” Grand Junction coach Stephen Latta said.
“I said ‘We’re going to practice this (shot) because if it’s a free kick where it’s not necessarily in the range of a cross pass or a curled-in ball, you have that distance.’ “
The goal for Leach, his first of the year, came after he twisted a knee in the first half, although he wasn’t going to let the injury keep him out of the game.
On top of everything else, it was senior night and Leach was among the Tigers’ six seniors honored before the game.
“I would have played no matter what,” he said.
The rest of the game was a physical affair, with the game stopped four times because of injuries.
Grand Junction scored the first goal of the game in the 30th minute when forward Tim Hofer was able to break free with the ball in the penalty area.
Fruita tied the game in the 38th minute when Alpert Mason shot past Grand Junction goalie Caleb Ealey, who saw 12 shots come his way.
Ealey finished the game with four saves.
Allen faced 14 shots, saving six, with several shots just missing the goal area.
It was the Tigers’ second one-goal victory over Fruita this season. Grand Junction won the first meeting 1-0.
In both games, the Fruita defense was able to limit the chances of the Tigers’ main scoring threats, Hofer and Brendan Ryan.
The competition is something players and coaches attribute to the teams spending the offseason working together as a club.
“They know each other’s habits,” Latta said.
“That’s something that’s really hard to break through because they’ve practiced non-stop with each other since they were 13 years old.”
Grand Junction improved to 10-3 overall, 7-2 in the Southwestern League. The loss put Fruita Monument at 1-10, 0-7 in the SWL.
The Tigers travel to Montrose and Prairie View to finish the regular season.
Fruita Monument is at home this weekend against Montezuma-Cortez and Durango.
MONTROSE 2, CENTRAL 0
The Indians scored one goal in each half to shut out Central at Long Family Memorial Park.
Montrose (10-4, 8-1 Southwestern League) got a first-half goal from Eric Shellhorn. Shane Guenther added an insurance goal in the second half.
It was the second straight shutout loss for Central (2-10, 1-6).
The Warriors are home this weekend against Durango and Montezuma-Cortez.
Montrose came back in two of the games two sweep Fruita Monument 26-24, 25-22, 25-23.
“We had the lead in game one, we had the lead in game two, (and) could not hold it,” Fruita Monument coach Amelia Conner said.
Camille Kovach led the Wildcats (6-8, 2-5 SWL) with eight kills and also had two aces.
Fruita Monument plays Durango and Montezuma-Cortez at home this weekend.