Maple Grove travels to Centennial on Saturday for a contest rife with revenge, making this matchup of conference and section rivals our featured Top Game of the Week.
The Crimson defeated Centennial 3-2 in the regular season en route to the Northwest Suburban Conference title and also ended the Cougars’ season with 3-0 victory in last year's Class 2A, Section 5 championship. Maple Grove used the win to propel itself to the state title game, where it fell to Eagan 2-1.
The Crimson (4-2, 2-2), ranked No. 9 in the Class 2A coaches' poll from Sept. 2, are off to a shaky start this season, having already suffered back-to-back conference losses to Champlin Park (2-1 on Aug. 29) and No. 10-2A Blaine (1-0 on Sept. 4).
Mannon McManon is the only returning player who netted a goal in last season’s section title game, and she's been a difference-maker this season with a goal in a 2-1 win over Eden Prairie on Aug. 24.
Five different Maple Grove players scored goals in a 5-0 win over Irondale last Thursday, and with a month left in the season, the Crimson will need more dominant wins like that to clinch a second consecutive Northwest Suburban title — and a victory on a rival's home pitch may be a perfect way to show Maple Grove has gotten back on track.
Centennial finished fifth in the Northwest Suburban standings last year, but the No. 8-2A Cougars are poised to improve their standing after winning three of their first four conference games this season, including a 2-1 win over No. 7-2A Andover last Thursday. Olivia Lovick scored both goals for Centennial (4-2, 3-1), putting her in a tie with Khyah Harper for the team lead in goals (5).
Look for one or both to be motivated to score against Maple Grove and help power Centennial to a victory that may provide some satisfaction after last year's stinging defeats.