Since Lila Dere's late winner against Denver East on March 16, the Fruita Monument High School girls soccer team has run with that momentum and dropped the stress-inducing theatrics that preceded it.
After struggling to score past Central goalkeeper Nikki Madaris for the first 23 minutes Tuesday night despite owning possession and chances, Makenna Flinn's 24th-minute goal sparked the Wildcats to a 5-0 victory at Walker Field.
"It's good to get first-half goals," said Fruita coach Ethan Johnson. "Sometimes, you maintain possession of the ball and you shoot, especially against a good goalkeeper, and you can't get them to go in. We got the floodgates open pretty early."
The opening goal came about because Shaylyn Cutshall's cross fell to Laurel Storheim, who passed to Flinn in the middle of the box. Flinn sent the ball to the right of a diving Madaris, who had previously turned away the Wildcats' relentless pressure.
Once that pressure found the back of the net, the Wildcats (3-2, 1-0 Southwestern League) wasted no time pulling away.
Ten minutes after Flinn's goal, Dere got in on the action to spark Fruita to its third straight win.
Carli Dare's through ball connected with Dere, who had sprinted past the Warriors' back line for a one-on-one with Madaris. Despite an awkward angle coming in from the left side of the box, Dere curled her shot to the left of Madaris to increase the lead to 2-0 with six minutes remaining in the half.
"The whole team worked hard," Dere said. "We were working hard and working together with lots of movement."
Down two goals and with little possession of its own, Central (1-1, 0-1) simply wanted to make it to halftime without any more damage being done on the scoreboard.
Fruita had other ideas.
With just under two minutes remaining in the half, Dere once again had the ball in the box, this time running in from the right side, but her shot was deflected by Madaris.
However, the ball landed at the feet of Hailee Howe on the left side. She calmly lofted the ball into the back of the net for her first goal of the season, giving Fruita a 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats still weren't done.
With the seconds counting down to end the half, Dere found herself in another one-on-one with Madaris, this time in the middle of the box. Dere dribbled around Madaris and scored from a tight angle outside the left post with 1.4 seconds left in the half, Dere's 10th goal of the season.
"It's about training," Dere said. "I've trained since last season, all summer long, and my team is so amazing. I couldn't do without them."
The second half was more of the same, only with fewer Fruita chances.
Eighteen minutes into the second half, Cutshall dribbled into the box to challenge Madaris from the left side, but her shot was deflected. However, the ball rolled to Audrey Geer, who tapped it in right next to the right post to make it 5-0.
The Wildcats were content to own possession — their goalkeepers, Autumn Smith and Hanna Killerud, were never tested.
Fruita turns its attention to Grand Junction, who the Wildcats will face at Walker Field on Friday night.
"I tell (my players) never to get too high or too low after a game," Johnson said. "Stay steady. In a win like this, we're the better side. We just have to stay consistent."