Detroit Lakes ekes by Crookston, 1-0, in defensive battle
Time and time again, Crookston kept Detroit Lakes out of the most dangerous areas of the pitch. But when the golden opportunity came, the Lakers didn't miss it.
A low-scoring, high-intensity deadlock was broken in the 27th minute when Detroit Lakes' Maddy Bowers chipped a shot over Pirate goalkeeper Reese Swanson, who had run too far off her line. The lead held up, and the Lakers defeated the Pirates, 1-0, on Thursday in Crookston.
"They pushed it through and they honestly just won a footrace and got it into the net," said Crookston head coach Sarah Reese. "Really nice goal, not much you can do about it. They got one in and that's how it shakes out sometimes."
The setback was the second straight 1-0 loss for Crookston (1-2), following Tuesday's contest at Hillcrest Lutheran.
One of the Pirates seeking to make up for that game was junior midfielder Olivia Huck, who had a performance that she called "pretty crappy." A new formation did the trick.
With Crookston implementing a 4-1-4-1 setup for the first time on Thursday, Huck slotted into the defensive midfield role, ahead of the back line of Rylee Solheim (Jr.), Dillynn Wallace (Jr.), JoJo Wallace (8) and Aleah Bienek (Jr.)
"They played absolutely phenomenally," said head coach Sarah Reese. "Olivia, she had a fantastic game. She was everywhere."
Detroit Lakes controlled the ball in the Pirate half for most of the game, but couldn't get many direct looks at Swanson (Fr.) — who was solid herself with eight saves on the day. While Huck pestered the Lakers' attackers, Solheim, Bienek and the Wallace sisters worked as a well-drilled unit at the back.
"We were totally stepping towards the ball," Huck said. "Rather than watching them, we were stepping on the ball right away and that was really helping with communication."
So despite Bowers' goal, the Pirates went into halftime with plenty of optimism.
"We were taking away their touches," Reese said. "They had to work for everything that they had, and that really set the tone."
Reese knew that her team needed a goal soon, though. But instead of changing up the formation, she simply asked for a bit more urgency on the attack. In addition, she inserted a number of substitutes, including Maddie Harbott (8), on the wings to provide some fresh legs for offensive purposes.
It almost paid off. Crookston threatened consistently throughout the last 10 minutes, getting long balls towards strikers Cassie Solheim (Fr.) and Kenze Epema (Jr.) and putting pressure on the Lakers' own back line.
"They kind of relaxed on us a little bit, I felt," Huck said. "And we got on the offensive."
The Pirates ran out of time, though, and were unable to put any shots on goal in the second half despite advancing deep into the Laker third.
All it takes for a good defensive showing to be neutralized is one well-taken chance. Crookston saw that on Thursday.
But that hardly put a damper on Reese's enthusiasm. As the coach of a Pirate team that won just six games from 2017-19, she saw Thursday as something else entirely.
"When you play a team that's really good and plays a high caliber of soccer, and when you lean into that and play that same high caliber of soccer, it's just awesome," she said.
"We played 110 percent. This is quite possibly the best soccer I've seen from this team in the last couple of years."
UP NEXT: Crookston will be at home to take on Pelican Rapids on Tuesday, Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. The Vikings are 0-1 on the year, their sole loss coming 10-0 at the hands of Detroit Lakes on Aug. 27.
- 27:14: Maddy Bowers (Detroit Lakes)
- Crookston: Reese Swanson 8 saves (5 first half, 3 second)
- Detroit Lakes: Elle Bettcher 2 saves (2 first half, 0 second)
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