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Liberty girls soccer finding its flow as modified fall season nearing a close

It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. After a slow start against visiting Manchester Valley, the Liberty girls soccer team recovered and roared to a 2-0 win Thursday.

The Lions (5-1) were on their heels for the first 20 minutes of the game as the Mavericks pressured the Liberty defense. Lions junior goalie Lauren Mondor kept the team afloat with several sprawling saves.

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“We had a slow start, but we finally got into our game,” said Liberty coach Danielle Prietz. “We were able to possess the ball really well. We did some really nice things. What we talked about ― find the feet, play to the corners and cross the ball.”

Mondor also helped spur the Liberty offense. With just over 15 minutes to go, Mondor sparked a scoring chance with a well-placed goal kick that gave senior midfielder Madison Stein the ball with room to roam up the right side of the field.

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Stein got past her defender and pressured the Mavs’ goal leading to a holding penalty. The infraction set Liberty up with a free kick and the Lions cashed in.

Liberty's Madi Rytina (11) positions herself to make a play on the ball while holding off pressure from Manchester Valley's Avery D'Agati during a girls soccer game at Liberty High School on Thursday, March 25, 2021.
Liberty's Madi Rytina (11) positions herself to make a play on the ball while holding off pressure from Manchester Valley's Avery D'Agati during a girls soccer game at Liberty High School on Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Brian Krista)

Liberty junior Grace Culver gathered the loose ball inside the box off the free kick and fed junior teammate Grace Beck to the left of the goal. Beck sneaked the ball past diving MV goalie Grace Buttiglieri for a 1-0 lead.

That goal seemed to calm the Lions and they dominated the tempo for the rest of the game. Liberty nearly added a second goal early in the second half. Off a corner kick, Beck came away with the ball in a crowd and unleashed a shot that got behind the goalie.

The shot appeared to cross the goal line but referees ruled that Buttiglieri was able to grab the ball just before it got over and the score remained 1-0.

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Despite several scoring chances, the Lions were blanked until the clock went below 15 minutes remaining in the second half.

Following a penalty, junior midfielder Jordan Townsend iced the game for the Lions. Taking a free kick from just outside the top of the box, Townsend blasted a shot on goal. The perfectly placed shot ducked under the crossbar and just over the leaping goaltender for a 2-0 advantage.

“My coaches told me to shoot the ball wherever I was,” said Townsend. “I just looked at the goalie to see where she was. And it went in.”

After struggling in their first game, the Lions appear to be hitting their stride as season nears its close.

“When you don’t have a preseason, you get thrown into that first game and you are trying to figure things out,” Prietz said. “By our second game, we were still figuring it out but we did some things better. By our third game, we really came together. We were doing what I wanted done.”

Despite the loss, Manchester Valley coach Hogan Allen said he liked a lot of what he saw from his team. He felt his team played well defensively and put a lot of pressure on the Lions. A few bad bounces did them in.

Manchester Valley's Taylor Dadds (7) tries to keep the ball in play along the sideline while holding off pressure from Liberty's Kara Bartolowits during a girls soccer game at Liberty High School on Thursday, March 25, 2021.
Manchester Valley's Taylor Dadds (7) tries to keep the ball in play along the sideline while holding off pressure from Liberty's Kara Bartolowits during a girls soccer game at Liberty High School on Thursday, March 25, 2021. (Brian Krista)

“Field conditions were a little bit of an issue,” Allen said. “Overall, I thought we played really well. It was a nice brand of soccer. They scored on a long free kick and the ball bounced around in the box. Just the way the ball bounces sometimes. Three games left in a season and the girls are playing great and seems like they are having fun. That is the biggest thing.”

Goals: L-Grace Beck, Jordan Townsend

Assists: L-Grace Culver

Saves: L-Lauren Mondor 8; MV-Grace Buttiglieri 9

Halftime: Liberty, 1-0

JV result: Liberty, 1-0

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