Maple Grove Wins Third Straight Class C Title
EDEN — Maple Grove’s favorite number must be three.
The Red Dragons were the No. 3 seed and they scored three goals to complete their three-peat of sectional titles, knocking off No. 1 Lafayette International 3-1 to capture the Section Class C championship Saturday.
“So exciting, so sweet,” Maple Grove head coach Cara Abbey said of securing the three-peat. “As the years go by and waves of people come through the program and then graduate it makes me so proud to have guys carry on the tradition of great Maple Grove soccer.”
Despite being the lower seed and the away team on the scoreboard, Maple Grove played comfortable like homefield advantage was on its side. With Lafayette possessing the ball early, the Red Dragons offense played to their strengths to score the game’s first goal.
On the counterattack, Maple Grove worked quickly toward Lafayette’s goal and Eli Moore — the player who wears No. 3 — found the back of the net after passing with RJ Helt. Moore’s goal restored the confidence of the Red Dragons who were on the defense for most of the early going.
“It really helped build some momentum and gave us some wiggle room,” Abbey said about the early offense. “That is so important to early on establish control. Lafayette is a very powerful team, there were huge portions of the game where it was very heavy pressure in our defensive end.”
Lafayette played confident and with a lot of flair in its movement with the ball. Spearheaded by the foursome of Yohanna Maonewa, Sajan Dhimal, Rajabu Esube and Juan Marin it seemed like only a matter of time before Lafayette scored, but each Maple Grove goal added frustration to the clearly talented bunch and the stellar goalkeeping of Andrew Auer only added to it.
“Our defense knew what guys we really had to watch going into this,” Abbey said about Maonewa, Dhimal, Esube and Marin. “Our plan was to make them as obsolete as we possibly could. With a defensive line of Sam Eimiller, Trent Moore, Paxton Faulk — it’s just a beautiful thing to see those three guys take control back there with MacCallum in front of them.”
Maple Grove’s second goal came on a free kick just outside the penalty box. Alex MacCallum stepped up to the ball and many of the Maple Grove fans knew it was going in before he took the shot. MacCallum took the shot and bent it like Beckham around the wall and back into the top right corner of the net, just past the outstretched diving hands of goalkeeper Mahabub Mim.
Now down 2-0, Lafayette felt like it needed a goal, but Auer had different plans. Auer fought off several good opportunities, including a shot that was headed below the bar that he was able to punch for a corner. Auer finished the game with 13 saves.
“Andrew Auer played outstanding today,” Abbey said. “He kept them out of the net so many times and really set the tone of not getting past.”
Maple Grove scored its third goal in the 50th minute when Keegan Rishel chipped the insurance tally over Mim. Moore recorded the assist.
Lafayette eventually found the back of the net when Dhimal beat Auer with a tricky shot in the 65th minute to make it 3-1. A glimmer of hope was there for Lafayette, but the experienced Maple Grove squad snuffed that hope out to claim its third consecutive Class C sectional title.
The Red Dragons will play either C1 Williamson or C2 Keshequa of Section V in the Far West Regionals on Friday at Williamsville South.