The Maple Grove boys’ soccer team turned around a mid-season slump with a win over Centennial and Hill Murray last week after falling a week earlier to Osseo and tying Armstrong.
The 1-0 win over Centennial, which featured a highly-charged last two minutes as Centennial applied fierce pressure to tie up the match, provided invaluable experience for the young team led by two junior captains, said co-head coach Chad Morse.
The Crimson team, which now has a 4-1-1 record, has proven its ability to get the ball into the back of the net. Now it’s learning to hold on to a lead, he said.
“Our biggest challenge as a young team is getting experience with this type of gritty and physical play and being able to hang on to a 1-0 lead,’’ Morse said. “They’re getting thrown into the fire. These close ones are particularly good. This win and more like it will put us on an upswing.”
Against Centennial, the Crimson was first on defense. Goalkeeper Ben Nelson’s quick reflexes averted a score as he snatched a quick header out of the air off a free kick just five minutes into the game. Junior captain Trevor Gifft’s shot in traffic was deflected out at the end of the second half. The resulting corner from Garrett Maupin ended with Junior Ben Zaver putting in the ball from the back post.
A free kick from Kevin Hoof late in the second half landed in the middle of the box, where Daniel Cortez put it in with a flick of his head. The goal was called back after the referee declared a foul outside of the goal box. Ryan DeBois took the ball on a late breakaway for about 30 yards, before he was run down by the Centennial defense.
The Crimson defense led by senior Johnathon Piotraschke, junior Ali Kowsari, Ryan Petersen and junior Vlad Maltsev held off a ferocious push by Centennial for the last two minutes, including shutting down two corner kicks.
“Against Armstrong, we gave away two defensive corners,’’ coach Morse said. “This time we showed a little bit of grit. Any win you can get at an away game in the Northwest Suburban Conference is good.”
The two previous games against Osseo and Armstrong featured early leads that slipped away.
Maupin, a sophomore, started the attack against Osseo with a free kick from outside the penalty box that dipped toward the top of the goal. The keeper got his fingertips on it to divert the ball off the cross bar, which then dropped into his hands. Junior forward Rein Diamond beat three defenders, finishing with a shot just right of the goal. Junior Sam Gardner’s free kick from almost half field slipped through the goalie’s hand for a corner kick.
Junior defender Ryan Petersen put the Crimson on the score board first 20 minutes into the game with a header off a corner kick from junior captain Kevin Hoof. With two minutes left in the half, the Orioles tied it up as junior Emre Can volleyed a cross from junior BK Kormah into the net. In the second half, Nelson shut down a breakaway after just two minutes. Osseo’s Kormah later played a through ball to senior Patrick Paye, who scored to give the Orioles the win.
DeBois started off the scoring against Armstrong, with a chip shot over the goalie at the end of the first half during the game played in 93 degree heat. Cortez beat the defense to the end line in the second half and crossed the ball into the box. Hoof finished the play with a shot that dinged off the right post and caromed into the goal.
Armstrong evened out the scoring during regulation time to bring the game into overtime. The Crimson again scored first when Maupin hit a one-touch volley into the net off a cross delivered by Diamond. In the second overtime session, Armstrong put in their second corner kick, ending the match in a tie.