Winters Mill's Anna Diffendal and Sarah Rhoads chat with us post-game after winning the Class 2A West Section 1 quarterfinal.
Winters Mill senior midfielder Anna Diffendal praised the Falcons' ability to transition from defense to offense and it's helped the team build its fast breaks all season.
The Falcons took advantage of their multiple scoring threats at home against Liberty in a Class 2A West Section 1 quarterfinal on Wednesday, defeating the Lions 18-7. They'll face Oakdale in a sectional semifinal game at Oakdale on Friday at 7 p.m.
Senior midfielder Sarah Rhoads helped pace the Falcons with five goals. Diffendal and freshman midfielder Madison Harmening scored four goals and Diffendal notched two assists.
"We were really just trying to be positive and have a lot of energy before this game because this was our last game on this field for the seniors," Rhoads said. "It's kind of a sad and happy thing so we were really focusing on that."
The girls had their mindsets in check before the game and Diffendal said taking a step-by-step approach helped them keep their focus in preparation for Liberty.
Liberty sophomore Alanna Wray got the Lions on the board just 14 seconds into the game, but Diffendal scored to tie it 1-1 less than a minute later. The Lions were winning the draw early in the contest and the Falcons made a switch in the middle from Harmening to Kaitlyn Thompson to Rhoads.
Rhoads continued to take the draw for the Falcons (10-5) through the majority of the game.
"They're both really talented and sometimes it has nothing to do with the person in the middle taking the draw," Falcons coach Amalie Meszaros said. "Sometimes it's bouncing out so when a couple draws don't go our way, we just switch it up and change people around in that center position and hope we can come up with it."
The next three goals were all Winters Mill — Katelyn Heffner assisted two of those tallies. Liberty's Heidi Ellis dashed through the Falcons' defense and fired a shot past goalie Hailey Bennett to trim the deficit, 6-3.
The Falcons took a 9-4 lead into the break and returned to score three more goals in a four minute span. Liberty's Molly Miller cut in with a goal that sparked a scoring series for the Lions as they inched within six of Winters Mill, 13-7. Miller's second goal came with less than 15 to go, but it would be the last time the Lions found the back of the net.
Harmening stepped back in for the draw after the Falcons took a time out and the team closed out the game on a five-goal run.
"I think that Madison and I both, we need a lot of confidence to build us up," Rhoads said. "When we transition back and forth, it gives us that confidence each time and Anna's always getting in there and grabbing it."
Liberty (4-9) saw their season end in the first round after advancing to the Class 2A/1A state semifinals last season. The Lions outscored their playoff opponents 66-7, prior to losing to eventual state champion Century 15-8.
Meszaros, in her second year as the Falcons' coach, said Wednesday's victory was a "solid" team win.
"I was really proud of how our defense played, I thought our offense was very patient," Meszaros said. "We just did a nice job all over with the 50/50 ground balls and the hustle all over the field. We had some really nice caused turnovers so I was really proud of the whole performance tonight."