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Moorhead girls soccer keeps rolling, heads to section semifinals

Moorhead team members celebrate the opening goal against Elk River during their Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 girls soccer quarterfinal game Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Moorhead.David Samson / The Forum1 / 2
Moorhead's Olivia Watson battles Elk River's Ally Gramstad for control during their Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 girls soccer quarterfinal game Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Moorhead.David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

MOORHEAD — Moorhead sophomore Olivia Watson may need a second letterman jacket to fit all her patches before her high school career is over. She has cross country, track and field, Nordic skiing and soccer patches and will have to add another for being a kicker on the football team this season.

Two years ago, she had to decide between varsity soccer or varsity cross country. She was one of the top runners in eighth grade, but she went with soccer.

"I'm really happy she made that decision," Moorhead girls soccer coach Nicole Wiesner said.

Watson had two goals and an assist Thursday in Moorhead's 4-0 win over Elk River in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 quarterfinals. She now has 19 goals and eight assists in 17 matches on the season.

The decision to go with soccer wasn't always easy, as Watson watched the cross country team go to state last year, while the soccer team finished 5-12. She tried to do both again this season, but she didn't want her legs running out in both sports, so she stuck with soccer.

"It was really hard to choose," Watson said. "In our training, it's felt so much different (than last season). We really connect and our friendship has gotten stronger. Our connection has made it easier to play on the field."

Moorhead (14-3) just finished a regular season with its most wins since 2004 and Thursday the Spuds left no doubt, opening the scoring less than nine minutes into the match. Elk River goalkeeper Jordyn Benson tipped a shot from Maria Zanotti off her fingertips, but Madeline Etter sent the loose ball into the back of the net 8 minutes, 37 seconds into the match.

The Moorhead stat leaders found each other with 10:34 remaining in the first half to put the Spuds up 2-0. Watson's centering pass found Lauren Hodny in the middle of the box and Hodny found the back of the net. It was Hodny's 19th goal of the season to go along with her eight assists.

What should scare the section is Hodny is a junior and Watson is a sophomore.

"We have these two girls that score from anywhere on the field," Wiesner said. "They dominate the field. They have more technical ability than almost anybody we play. They can make the space, they can make the passes and they can make the shots."

Watson scored less than seven minutes into the second half on a breakaway to make it 3-0 and put the match on ice with her second goal of the match about nine minutes later.

"In practice it's high intensity and working hard," Hodny said. "Everyone wants to compete in practice. It's a different energy. (Last season) was kind of discouraging, but our vibe was we were going to have fun and we'll see how it goes. It's nice this year to work hard and be rewarded for it."

Moorhead's defense did not allow a threatening shot to get to keeper Emily Soukup the entire match. She made five saves to notch her sixth shutout on the season and Moorhead's fourth straight shutout. Even scarier for the section is Soukup is only a sophomore.

"Emily Soukup is the best goalie in our section," Wiesner said. "You didn't get to see that today because she wasn't really challenged, but the girls' vertical and athleticism is amazing. And the defense is just full of athletes that can run and read the ball and make it happen."

Despite having the best QRF rating in the section, the Spuds got the No. 3 seed for the section tournament with defending section champs St. Michael-Albertville getting the top seed and Rogers getting the No. 2 seed. Moorhead lost one match to both on the season, but the Spuds are hoping to get redemption against Rogers on Saturday in the section semifinals.

"We played Rogers in the third game of the season, so this will be a different game," Wiesner said. "I think it went our way, getting the third seed, because they beat us and they're going to think it's easy, but they aren't going to see it coming."

FIRST HALF: 1, M, Etter (Zanotti), 8:37. 2, M, Hodny (Watson), 29:26.

SECOND HALF: 3, M, Watson, 6:16. 4, M, Watson (Englund), 15:22.

SAVES: ER, Benson 5. M, Soukup 5.

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy is a sports reporter for the Forum. He's covered high school and college sports in Chicago, North Dakota and Minnesota since 2009 and, for some reason, has been given awards for doing so.

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