Swander’s hat trick lifts GJ past Fruita
On paper, the Fruita Monument High School soccer team held every advantage over Grand Junction.
The Wildcats were more experienced, outshot the Tigers 16-6 and won the possession battle.
But on the field, Junction made its few chances count.
Behind a hat trick from Leah Swander, the Tigers (1-1) were able to squeak by Fruita 3-2 on Wednesday at Walker Field.
All three of Swander’s goals were solo breakaways, the final coming less than 30 seconds before the final whistle blew.
Although Fruita (2-2) spent the majority of the game with the ball in its attacking third, Wildcat coach Eric Anderson felt that his team struggled on defense despite knowing Junction’s key players.
“Junction is a good team and they have talented players,” Anderson said. “We knew exactly who to mark up coming into this game and the girls decided they didn’t want to do it for some reason. (Swander) got in behind three times, and got three goals from it. They all knew what to do and what to expect.”
Swander’s first goal came only eight minutes in when she snuck a ball through the goalkeeper’s hands from almost 30 feet out.
Fruita answered less than a minute later with a goal of their own, and added a second before Swander evened the game at 2-2 during stoppage time.
During the second half, Junction coach Joe Graham credited his team’s intensity and drive to win.
“These girls played hard for 80 minutes and never gave up,” Graham said. “That enabled us to be in a good situation despite being dispossessed a lot in the first half. We’re working on being a good defensive team, and communicating, but we’ll take a win however we can get it.”
Swander also credited the drive and focus of the team for the win.
“I just have to be hungrier than the other team,” Swander said. “I just have to want it more than they do. I kept running on to those through balls and it paid off. A lot of people think we’re not that good because we have a lot of freshmen, but we beat Fruita.”
Fruita will look to rebound at home against Durango on March 30, after losing two close games this year.
“I think the hype around town was to look out for Fruita,” Anderson said. “In reality, we’ve been telling the girl’s to not let their heads get big because it’s about who shows up. We didn’t play our game today and our energy was low.
“The minimal times they were in our half we broke down. We can score goals and get in behind as shown today. We just need to capitalize on that.”