With the Triad offense stuck in neutral most of the night, Michelle Grotefendt and Brianna Merchant provided the jump start their team needed on Thursday against the Althoff Crusaders.
Grotefendt broke up a scoreless game with a goal midway in the second half and Merchant scored only 30 seconds later as the Knights went on for a 2-1 nonconference victory.
Held in check by a much-improved Althoff defense, Triad finally broke through when Grotefendt hit a hard shot from 15 yards out that sailed into the upper right hand of the net with 22 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the game.
Merchant, who narrowly missed giving Triad the lead earlier in the second half, then broke through the still-stunned Crusaders defense and scored with 21:48 left to increase the lead to 2-0.
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“We had some chances in the first half. It seemed that we were just a step slow or the pass was a shade late on a couple of those occasions and we just couldn’t put the ball in the net,’’ Knights coach Matt Bettlach said. “We talked about it at halftime. Things we had been working on and in the second half, we were able to make some perfect passes, which led to goals. Making the perfect pass is something we’ve worked on and tonight it resulted in us getting a couple of goals.
“I told the girls that when we execute it properly, we’re going to get better scoring chances. Tonight we did that in the second half.’’
But Althoff didn’t quit. With their young offense struggling to get shots on goal, the Crusaders Jessica Hoffman made her shot. Battling for possession of the ball near the Knights goal, a determined Hoffman got away and beat Knights goalie Skye Clark from 15 yards out.
That goal came with just over three minutes left and cut the Crusaders deficit to 2-1.
But Hoffman wasn’t done. Another hustle play earned the Crusaders a free kick to the left of the goal just 18 yards out. With about a minute left, Anna Hanger put the free kick on goal, but no Crusaders player was able to get a shot off.
“Jessica (Hoffman) made a great play on a great effort to score our goal and she was the one who set up the free kick with a minute left,’’ Crusaders coach Juergen Huettner said. “Anna (Hanger) then made a nice play on the free kick but we just couldn’t get the tying goal.
“I thought we played better tonight, especially on defense. But because we’re playing so many freshmen and sophomores, we’re not getting many good offensive chances. Sooner or later that catches up with you. It did tonight.’’
Both teams had chances to score first in the first half. Althoff sophomore Amanda Kalltwasser saw her shot sail just over the Knights crossbar with just over 13 minutes left in the first half. Two minutes later, Triad nearly took the lead.
Junior Allison Wendt got possession of the ball on the Crusaders side of the field. After a couple of moves got her free, Wendt turned to the left and had a shot into a wide open Crusaders goal. Wendt however pushed the shot just left of the goalpost.
“I don’t think she realized how open she was and she rushed the shot when there was no need too,’’ Bettlach said. “In that situation one of her teammates should have been communicating what the situation was so that she would realize that she didn’t have to hurry.
“But I’m pleased. We beat a good soccer team tonight in Althoff.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.