Playing under sunny skies in front of a large home crowd, the Montezuma-Cortez High School girls soccer team shot its way to a 2-0 victory over Del Norte on April 14.
Leading the way for the Lady Panthers as she has for much of the season was freshman McKenzie Howerton, who scored in the 14th minute to put her team ahead 1-0. Howerton added a second goal in the 56th minute to further secure the victory.
“We made positive plays in all aspects of the game,” said M-CHS head coach Nathan Ross. “We were able to complete some good plays moving forward, and we found the net.”
The first of Howerton’s goals came after senior midfielder Madi Archuleta dribbled down the left side and sent a perfect crossing pass to her freshman teammate, who drilled the ball into the back of the net from five yards out.
“It was an amazing cross,” said Howerton, when asked about her teammate’s pass. “It was over the defenders, and I was able to get my body on it and score.”
Howerton’s second goal of the game came in similar fashion after Archuleta collected a pass 35 yards from the net and dribbled down the left side before firing the ball in Howerton’s direction. Although the ball glanced off a Del Norte defender before reaching Howerton, the freshman was able to change directions and collect the loose ball before firing a low shot into the bottom right corner of the net.
“I was trying to get (the ball) to an open spot, and (Howerton) read it just right,” Archuleta said. “She got in front of the defender and was able to get an open shot.”
A third goal for Howerton nearly came in the 48th minute when the freshmen drilled a free kick from 30 yards in the direction of the net. Just before finding the back of the net however, the ball deflected off the left post and was cleared by Del Norte defenders.
As good M-CHS’s offense was throughout the contest, the team’s defense was equally impressive as Del Norte was limited to just two shots on goal. Helping to anchor the defense was senior Cassidy Leonard, who returned from an injury after sitting out several games.
“We did well trying to organize and pick up marks,” Leonard said. “At the beginning, we were having trouble figuring out who was on who, but we really settled in later in the game.”
“We had a better defensive shape today,” Ross added. “Leonard is a huge presence for us in the back and (her return) definitely gave us our defensive strength back.”
Now 4-4-0 on the season, M-CHS will return to the practice field in preparation for a road contest against Pagosa Springs, which will take place on April 18.
“We can still improve our communication and our touches,” Leonard said. “We’re playing really well as a team this year, but there is always room to improve.”