ERIE — The soccer pitch at Erie has been a goal scorer's dream the past couple of games that have been played there, and that rings true even for the Tigers opponents.
But Erie is still in the thick of the Tri-Valley League playoff race because its offensive explosiveness is sometimes too much to keep up with. They proved it again Wednesday against Berthoud in a 5-3 shootout, rallying for the game's final four goals despite not having a very deep bench these days.
What they do have are finishers, both young and experienced. Wednesday, it was all freshmen who found the back of the net. Alison McNeal, whose older sister Fiona scored four times in a 6-4 home win against Mead, had two goals and an assist to lead the way.
"This game helped in our goal of getting to the playoffs, and we're really excited about that," Alison McNeal said after notching her 13th and 14th goals of the year. "In the second half tonight, we all just started to calm down a bit and started connecting passes more. We pressed forward hard and that helped a bunch."
McNeal and her teammates are trying to match the boys team in getting to the playoffs in just their second year of existence, and the win over the Spartans was a big boost for girls as they try to reach the postseason.
Last Saturday they dropped a heartbreaker to Thompson Valley in two overtimes, but that was a nonleague game that will not have any bearing on their postseason berth if they beat Roosevelt (0-10) and Frederick (3-7-1) to end the year.
Still, it was crucial to bounce back against the Spartans (2-6-1, 0-4 TVL), and it took awhile to do so. Erie managed to fall behind 3-1 with five minutes left in the first half, but with two minutes before the break Alicia Cardenas made a masterful first touch to get a breakaway for herself —and made sure not to miss as the BHS goalie was challenging the play.
Erie saw a chance to get Berthoud on its heels by going to a 4-5-1 formation to start the second half, and it paid off in the 42nd minute with McNeal's first goal of the night. The Tigers (9-3, 3-2) took the lead for good just 4 minutes later when Riane Sisk played a chip shot to the keeper that bounced around and out for Shuanah Xiong.
Charlie Miller, the elder statesman of this squad, assisted McNeal unselfishly in the 70th minute to provide the final tally.
"It was a good step tonight," said head coach Dayton Owens. "We came out sluggish, kind of ugly and all over the place. We dropped into a 4-5-1 to shut off their midfield, brought Charlie up top and let the other girls run up off of her. That was hard for (Berthoud) to pick up."
After scoring 37 goals in 15 games last year, Erie has now amassed 62 this year in just 12 contests.
Erie 5, Berthoud 3
At Erie HSBerthoud (2-6-1, 0-4) 3 0 — 3
Erie (9-3, 3-2) 2 3 — 5
Goals — Berthoud: K. Leatherwood, Workman, Stippich; Erie: Alison McNeal 2, McKenna Harrington 1, Shaunah Xiong 1, Alicia Cardenas 1.
Assists — Erie: Cardenas 1, Charlie Miller 1, Harrington 1, McNeal 1.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Berthoud: H. Leatherwood (80-5-9); Erie: Katie Glaze (40-3-2), Megan Marcoux (40-0-1).