MOORHEAD — Somebody finally figured out the recipe to slow down the Moorhead girls soccer team's high-powered offense. And it came at an unfortunate time for the Spuds.
Brainerd held Moorhead scoreless for the first time this season, beating the Spuds 1-0 in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 quarterfinals on Wednesday at Jim Gotta Stadium.
The Spuds entered the game averaging 7.3 goals per game, led by center forward Olivia Watson’s single-season school-record 43 goals in 10 games. She scored multiple goals in every regular-season contest.
“They have an all-conference center back who is really, really fast,” said Watson, a North Dakota State commit. “They stuck close to me the whole time. And they put another one on me most of the time too. It was really hard for me to get through. I couldn’t really get any space.”
The Warriors did everything they possibly could to keep Watson from hurting them. They played a deep back line to keep Watson in front of their defenders and had at least two players marking her at all times. When Moorhead brought the ball into the Warriors zone, Brainerd’s defenders swarmed the passing lanes toward Watson to keep the ball from getting to her.
“She’s one of the greatest goal scorers in the state of Minnesota’s history, so she deserves that attention,” Moorhead head coach Marco Campoverde said. “If you don’t mark her with three or four players — that’s the only way you can stop her. Credit to them for queuing in on her. I still think she created problems for them.”
Brainerd scored the game-deciding goal on a corner kick in the 33rd minute. The corner taker sent in a cross toward Taylor Larson making a run at the near post. Larson kicked it out of the air and sent a bouncing shot into the net.
“They scored that goal and the conditions were against us in the second half,” Campoverde said. “That 1-0 lead was all the motivation they needed.”
Campoverde knew it would be tricky for the Spuds to score in the second half with his team facing heavy winds. He attempted to scheme up a tactical change at halftime to try to spark the offense. The wind made it tricky to send long passes up to their star forward, so Campoverde told his squad to try to build up through the midfield to create chances.
“We knew it would be harder going against the wind (in the second half),” Campoverde said. “So we needed to figure out how to get players into more advanced positions. Our style of play has been very specific throughout the year, but we knew we needed to be more flexible going into the playoffs. We had to get more players ahead of the ball instead of playing the longer passes.”
Watson finished her high school career tied atop the leaderboard as the Spuds most prolific goal scorer of all time. She tied the school record for career goals with her 89th goal in a 2-1 win over Brainerd in the regular-season finale.
She smashed the single-season record for goals in the eighth game of the season. She finished with 43 goals in 10 games, including a Minnesota state record of 11 goals against Rocori on Aug. 27. The previous single-season record holder, Quin Ryan, scored 34 goals in 18 games in 2005.
“This season has been good no matter what,” Watson said. “We broke a lot of records and accomplished some things. I think this is one of the best seasons Moorhead’s ever had.”