Mannon McMahon, second from right, got a hug from teammate Meredith Haakenson after her first half goal in a 3-0 victory over Centennial to earn a state tournament berth. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Maple Grove's Mia Omar (11) went up over Centennial's Alexis Larson in an attempt to head the ball past goalkeeper Lauren Sicora on a corner kick. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
For each of the past two seasons, Maple Grove had found itself on the wrong side of the Class 2A, Section 5 final against Centennial.
This season, the Crimson finally came away with a win and advanced to their first-ever girls’ soccer state tournament.
No. 1 seed Maple Grove, which is ranked fourth in the Class 2A coaches’ poll, pitched a 3-0 shutout as the Crimson defeated second-seeded Centennial—the defending Class 2A champion—and won the section crown.
For Maple Grove (17-2), defense proved key in the victory. The Crimson shut down the No. 8-2A Cougars (13-3-2). It’s the 14th time this season Maple Grove has shutout its opponent. Crimson sophomore goalie Sarah Cortez had five saves in the win.
“They moved off the ball faster than we did,” said Centennial coach Ginger Flohaug. “Their energy off the ball was also hard to defend.”
Offensively, it took Maple Grove a while to get things going. The Crimson got on the board in the 22nd minute when senior forward Shelby Handberg redirected a Maple Grove shot into the net to give her team the lead. It was Handberg’s second goal of the section tournament.
Junior forward Mannon McMahon gave the Crimson an insurance goal when she pounced a loose ball and scored her sixth goal of the season. Senior Meredith Haakenson gave her team another chance to celebrate with a goal in the 72nd minute.
“Our best players stepped up when we needed the to,” Maple Grove coach Ben LeVahn said. “We took any extra pressure off ourselves by scoring first.”
In the second half, Maple Grove controlled most of the play but were stymied by Centennial’s defense. Cougars’ senior goalie Lauren Sicora finished the match with 10 saves.
While the Crimson are still three wins from their goal of a state championship, getting past their section nemesis is something the team will enjoy for a while.
“We likened tonight to taking a test,” LeVahn said. “We studied hard and now we just needed to ace it. Now, we just have to take any other experience we have and go out and enjoy the experience.”
Maple Grove's Shelby Handberg (10) battled Centennial's Megan Shock in the second half. Handberg had one of the Crimson's three goals. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
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