Maple Grove Wins CCAA Central Division
MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Central Division soccer title was on the line Tuesday.
Maple Grove left with a 4-0 clinching victory.
The Red Dragons’ only league loss this season came from the Thunderbirds in a 1-0 victory on Dutch Hollow Road, but the Red Dragons got their chance to exact revenge and, at the same time, claim a division crown. In a very physical battle, Maple Grove prevailed.
“To win the league over Chautauqua Lake tonight was also avenging the loss that has been nagging at us,” stated Maple Grove head coach Cara Abbey. “Winning the league is one of the first goals that every team sets and that’s the first goal we set for ourselves. It’s a hard goal because it takes consistency over a long, long time. Each season is a roller-coaster of emotions and different twists and turns.”
From the very start of the match the Red Dragons came out with an extra pep in their step. Early on, Eli Moore dribbled past the Thunderbirds’ back line for a golden opportunity that couldn’t be converted and then, moments later, Maple Grove hit its first post of the game.
After hitting the crossbar early, the Red Dragons had two more shots hit the woodwork before they eventually found the back of the net. In the 28th minute, Maple Grove’s Jonah Foley had what appeared to be the first goal after sending a shot labeled for the top of the net, but instead the ball struck the crossbar and went straight down to keep the game scoreless. Four minutes later, the Red Dragons hit another post on a Keegan Rishel shot, but while they didn’t score it was apparent they were wearing down the Thunderbirds. In the face of the Red Dragons’ potent offense, the Thunderbirds made it difficult to get off any shots and when they did very little net was available.
“Our defense has played phenomenal this year,” stated Chautauqua Lake head coach Mike Putney. “I’ve got a young crew back there. I have a first-year player, a ninth-grader, my leader Ian Riedesel and Jeff Bajdo on the back line. The biggest thing about this group of guys is that they’re very classy and they play very classy soccer. They leave it on the field in a way that you hope all teams will.”
Luck finally swung the way of the Red Dragons when in the 37th minute a Chautauqua Lake handball in the box awarded them a penalty. Trent Moore stepped up to the penalty marker for the Red Dragons and sent a strike that was saved by Brendan Klossner, but Moore was able to dart to the rebound and tap it in for the 1-0 lead.
“It was just a big relief,” Abbey said about finally scoring after hitting three posts. “I feel like it also shows the growth that we’ve had over the course of the season. Tonight shows the growth we have had over the last couple of weeks as a team, to be able to go from a 1-0 loss to 4-0 shutout.”
With the little time that was left in the half Maple Grove didn’t hold back. In the final minute the Red Dragons kept coming and Rishel after hitting the left post minutes earlier was able to beat both Klossner and the post to increase the lead to 2-0.
“I think it’s just the way the momentum shifts with us,” Abbey said about her offense scoring quickly. “It can happen pretty quickly once the momentum is on your side, you can just take it and run with it and sometimes that results in a couple of goals real quick.”
In the second half, Chautauqua Lake played with more of a sense of urgency on offense. The Thunderbirds began generating more chances and maintained play on the Red Dragons side of the field.
“Obviously we needed to exert a little more offensive energy there,” stated Putney. “I felt our guys did do that and when you do that you’re going to give up a little defensively. The biggest thing at the end of the day is that you learn from your mistakes and, hopefully, you reflect on those mistakes.”
Just as the Thunderbirds’ defense was giving nothing easy, the Red Dragons made it just as difficult as the physicality and intensity of the match seemed to pick up as the game wore on. Nobody could possess the ball without immediately being hounded by a defender.
Maple Grove’s Andrew Auer made some big stops in the second half on his way to a clean sheet, finishing with eight saves in total. Moore helped to ice the game as he scored two more times in the second half, including a beautiful strike with his back to net as he kicked the ball over his head to make it 4-0.
Klossner made eight saves for the Thunderbirds.