Thanks largely to the artistry of junior forward Ashton Brooks and junior goalie Ashley Rose, Dow High battled to its first victory of the season Monday night, beating Bay City Western 3-0 in Saginaw Valley League North soccer.
Brooks scored twice and assisted on the Chargers’ other goal, and Rose stopped 13 shots, many on diving saves, as Dow improved to 1-4-1 overall and 1-1 in the SVL North.
“It feels fantastic,” Brooks said of her team earning its first victory. “You know, after all this hard work — and (the fact that) we’ve had some struggles at the beginning of this season — it’s nice to come out here and finally get a win on our home field.”
Chargers’ coach Erica Bader couldn’t have agreed more.
“It felt great. The kids really deserved (the win),” she said. “They’ve played super hard throughout the season. … It was awesome to get that first one under the belt. It gives (our team) a lot of confidence moving forward, now that we’re in the thick of Valley games.”
The game turned dramatically in the final two minutes of the first half.
Western (5-2, 1-1 SVL North) peppered Rose with shots throughout the first half and had five corner kicks in the half. But it was Dow which struck first, when Brooks took a pass from Logan Rosenbrock to the left of the goal and blasted a shot that bounced once and landed in the right corner of the net with about two minutes to go in the half.
With only 45 seconds left, Brooks made a great cross from the right side to Elizabeth Green in front of the goal, who powered the ball into the net to make it 2-0.
“We were struggling in the beginning of the game, but we really pushed through (it),” Brooks said. “We worked our tails off to get those goals in, and that just gave us so much more intensity going into the second half and really boosted our confidence.”
As a result of that two-goal burst at the end of the first half, Dow was able to play more defensively in the second half, and Western could not get back in the game.
“(Those two goals) definitely allowed us to play a little more defensively in the second half,” Bader said. “That first one by Ashton was an individual goal. She was just strong and found the side netting with her left foot. On that next one, she worked really hard to get it to (Green).”
Western coach L.J. Jones said the game served as a lesson to his team of the importance of not losing focus and letting their guard down.
“(The loss) definitely was frustrating, but something I try to reiterate to my girls when stuff like this happens is, ‘That’s soccer,’” Jones said. “As unfortunate as it is, you can dominate 75 minutes of a game, but be mentally unprepared for five minutes and lose a game 3-0.”
But at the same time, Jones is confident that his team will bounce back quickly from the loss.
“We’ll be able to move forward very easily,” he said. “I have a great group of girls who stay positive. It starts at practice (Tuesday) and we’re going to ride that through to (our game vs.) Midland High on Thursday.”
Dow’s defenders and Rose continued to keep Western off the scoreboard in the second half, and Brooks gave the Chargers some breathing room with 6:20 left, when she scored off a long throw-in by Alexie Flaminio to make it 3-0.
Western finished with nine corner kicks to Dow’s two and outshot the Chargers 13-9 in shots on goal.
Bader noted that Rose’s impact on the game was tremendous.
“Ashley was lights-out today,” Bader said. “She made one of the best saves I’ve seen by any goalkeeper, in the first half. … (Western) should have had at least two (goals). She kept us in the game today.”
For her part, Rose credited her defense for helping her post the shutout.
“Our back line was really strong today. and the shots (Western) had were mostly indirect kicks,” Rose said. “I think we all did a great job of playing defense and getting the ball out (of the goal area). We may have (given up) a lot of corner kicks, but I think we also played really well on those. Those were great clearances (of the ball).”
Rose, who has verbally committed to play for Central Michigan University, acknowledged that this win could prove to be a turning point for the Chargers.
“I think that we’re slowly learning more and more about each other and how to play, and I think it’s only going to go up from here,” she said. “With this win, I think that in the future, in hard games like this, we’ll be able to perform just as well as we did today. I look forward to it.”
RaeAnne Goodwin played in goal for the Warriors.
Dow will host Saginaw Heritage on Wednesday in another SVL North game.
“Heritage should be a tough test. They’re a strong team (every year),” Bader said. “So we’ll see what they have for us. But we’re confident after this win.”
Western will host first-place Midland High on Thursday in SVL North action. Jones said the key will be to contain the Chemics’ top scorer, Marle Bringard.
“I truly believe if we can stay locked in and take her out of that game and play our game like we know how to play, we’ll get positive results out of that match,” he said. “We really need to stay focused for the whole 80 (minutes), though.”