By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports
As the #1 seed in Section 8AA, the STMA Knights girls soccer team enjoyed hosting two home section playoff games Thursday and Saturday. STMA took advantage of home field advantage and won both games.
The Knights hosted #8 seed St. Cloud Tech on Thursday night. STMA dominated play throughout the first half, highlighted by three goals. DJ Noel anchored the defense, keeping the ball out of the STMA zone during the night. The Knights took a 3-0 lead to halftime.
Out of the second half, STMA struck again for three more goals, as the Tech Tigers found no answer for the onslaught of the Knights offense. STMA got goals from Emily and Ashley Swanson, Makenzie Langdok, Rachel Bourget and Jordyn Walker. Noel also scored her first goal of the season.
STMA’s defense, including junior Emily Laudenback, and goalie Becky Panuska held strong for the 6-0 shutout win. Head coach Megan Johnson said her team loves playing at home.
“It’s fun to have the student body out here on the hill, and you always have the advantage when you get to play at home,” she said.
Johnson felt that the game was a great one for everyone’s confidence. The Knights got several girls into the game and played all seniors, celebrating a belated Senior Night due to the Spring Lake Park game’s cancelation. Johnson said her girls were excited for the next game.
After beating Tech, the Lady Knights hosted the #4 seeded Moorhead Spuds, who beat #5 seed Brainerd 2-1 on Thursday. This game proved much tighter than round one, but the Knights controlled the action. Jordyn Walker scored in the first half to grab a 1-0 halftime lead for STMA.
Both teams had good chances down the stretch in the second half. STMA capitalized on a scoring chance when DJ Noel launched a shot toward the Moorhead goalie. Noel picked up an assist when Makenzie Langdok used her head, giving the Knights a 2-0 lead.
The Lady Knights defense finished it from there, holding Moorhead scoreless for the victory. Anita Thammavongsa minded the net in game two. STMA has yet to allow a goal in the section playoffs.
Coach Johnson felt good about the win but maintained that a two goal lead is one of the hardest to hold in any sport.
“Our goalkeeper Anita played an awesome game. She kept us in the game, she made some great saves,” Johnson said. She also praised the defense for its contribution to the win.
Johnson said she talked to the girls about the “win or go home” stipulation of the playoffs.
“We try to mentally prepare ourselves that we don’t get a second chance and we can’t afford to make mistakes.”
Mistakes have not been part of STMA’s repertoire lately. The Knights last surrendered a goal during a 3-1 loss against Orono. That game also marked the last time STMA lost.
STMA welcomed Elk River for the section championship game on Tuesday. The Knights previously defeated the Elks 3-2 on an overtime goal by Leah Johnson during the regular season.