Playing in a rare Wednesday-night contest, the SSM U16 girls were looking to build on their results from the weekend, having just taken all six points from their two weekend Midwest Regional League games. The Minnesota Thunder Academy ECNL group that came to Dane Family Fieldhouse, however, had other ideas.
Playing in front of a good crowd of supporters comprised of students, faculty, and parents, the Sabres came roaring out of the gate. In only the second minute of the game, Anna Kuhl was fouled just inside the penalty area after a slashing run between two defenders, and stepped up to calmly score the ensuing penalty kick in the third minute. The early lead seemed to give the U16s even more of an edge as they controlled the momentum and pace of the early minutes. Several close chances went begging however, and MTA took advantage late in the first half with a slotted finish from a well-designed set piece about 30 yards out from the Shattuck goal.
Nina LeFlore was a menace all night, coming up short just twice
in the second half
In the second half, MTA’s composure and quality on the ball started to take over, and the Sabres found themselves defending for longer stretches. As the MTA back line pushed higher and their forwards got wider, Shattuck found themselves having to defend deeper and deeper into their own half. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing however, as it exposed the MTA girls to more dangerous counterattacking chances, with so much space behind them. While a resolute Shattuck back line held firm, putting in several key tackles to thwart many would-be shots on goal, their wide players found space to run forward when possession was won. At about the 60-minute mark, Nina LeFlore beat her defender wide to the right and cut inside to unleash a shot that evaded the MTA goalkeeper. Unfortunately, her shot caromed off the inside of the far post and nestled right into the prone GK’s hands….an outstanding individual effort that was unfortunately not rewarded with a goal. With less than 10 minutes remaining, MTA struck for the eventual game-winner on a well-timed counter attack that left their highest forward alone with only a tap-in to break the deadlock. Shattuck pushed numbers forward for a late equalizer, and LeFlore was closest again, this time on a free kick that had the keeper beaten high and to the back post….only to graze the crossbar and fall harmlessly away. The final score on the night read 2-1 in favor of MTA.
After the game, coach Sue Vodicka had a positive tone despite the final score. “This team gave us looks and did some things to create space that no team we had faced so far this year has done. Given their quality, and given our tired legs from last weekend’s games, I was not disappointed with the result. We got better as a team tonight, and that’s exactly what games like this are supposed to do….make us better. We’ll learn from tonight and move on.”
The U16s are off this weekend before returning to action next week Sunday, October 25th at 4:30pm when they will host Hudson United. The following week, they will travel to St. Louis, MO for the SLSG Fall Classic and Girls Showcase.