Possession is crucial in soccer, and on Thursday at Herb Parker Stadium, Century had it in spades.
Catapulted by a pair of late goals in a 2-0 victory over Minot High, the Patriots clinched the West Region championship ahead of next week’s state tournament. The Majettes clinched the No. 2 seed in the loss.
Minot (10-2 overall, 8-2 region) have now conceded three league goals this season. Century has scored all of them.
“We just couldn’t keep possession,” Minot coach Matt Pfau said. “We didn’t have good first touches, and we ended up playing a lot more defense because of it.”
Century senior forward Lily Obrigewitch and sophomore midfielder Kylee Welch were the match winners, both scoring goals in a game that was kept scoreless for nearly 70 minutes.
With just under 14 minutes to play, Obrigewitch swung in a right-footed cross from a corner kick, which found the head of Welch, who guided her header into the back of the net.
Nearly 10 minutes later, the pacey Obrigewitch put the game on ice. After finding a bit of space in the box, she ripped a low, left-footed shot that found its way under Stenberg and in.
“Minot played well. They put us under pressure,” Century coach Nate Ulness said. “Once we got calm on the ball and started moving the ball around, I think that opened the game up a lot more for us and we could play our style of soccer.”
Unbeaten in region play, Century’s influence over the game grew as it progressed.
Minot enjoyed a bit more possession in the first half, but the Patriots inspired the game’s most dangerous chances.
With 25 minutes remaining in the first, Century (13-0-1, 10-0) nearly pulled ahead, but disciplined defending from Minot senior defender Chenoa Erz saw the chance go begging.
After a spell of one-touch passing between Century striker Joanna Jensen and senior Tara Welch, Welch found herself running unmarked in the Minot penalty area with players forward, eager for a cross.
Welch’s drilled cross met the fist of Stenberg, but she mishit the ball, allowing it to bounce behind her with Obrigewitch lurking in front of an open goal. But Erz’s timely clearance kept the game level.
Stenberg finished with eight saves in the contest, evidence of Century’s dominance. Minot finished with one attempt on goal.
“We just need to create a little more offense,” Pfau said. “I think we panicked, trying to send balls over the top hoping for breakaways. We gotta start playing the ball to people’s feet and create some different opportunities.”
Minot entered the game needing a two-goal win over the Patriots to clinch the West Region. In a goalless game with Century enjoying most of the possession, Pfau elected to move junior defender Malena Lennon into midfield, hoping to inject some late-game energy into the Minot attack.
But Century was too hot to handle.
The win gives the Patriots confidence heading into the state tournament.
The Majettes enter next week’s state tournament – beginning May 29 in Grand Forks – as the West Region No. 2 seed. They battle East Region No. 3 seed Fargo Davies at 6 p.m. at Cushman Field.
“It’s the state tournament now,” Pfau said. “We have to be ready.”
Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.