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An early goal makes the difference in the Cougars first Three Rivers League game of the season

HERALD PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Emilee Carr nixed two dangerous scoring opportunities by the Blues.

Following the Canby girls soccer team’s loss to St. Mary’s, a Blues player uttered a sentence that shocked Canby head coach Ben Winegar.

“We finally beat Canby,” the girl said with conviction.

Winegar recalls Canby defeating St. Mary’s twice in 2012 including a 5-0 playoff win. And in 2014, the Blues first year in the Three Rivers League, Canby won again.

When told about the comment, Winegar was taken aback.

“Wow, that’s pretty cool to say. I smile because I have a lot of respect for their team and their program,” Winegar said.

On Thursday, Sept. 24, the Canby girls soccer team (2-4, 0-1) lost to St. Mary's 1-0 in the first game of the Three Rivers League season but almost matched a nearly undefeated Blues squad tit-for-tat.

15 minutes after kickoff, a St. Mary's (6-1, 1-0) forward maneuvered in front of and stole the ball from junior defender Tia Elder before slithering a diagonal shot into the goal.

“We just have to make quicker decisions and understand the moment. Everyone is learning and mistakes happen,” Winegar said.

Then, with 20 minutes left in the first half, the Blues seemingly manufactured a wide-open scoring opportunity. However, out of nowhere, outside defender Emilee Carr swooped in and cleared the ball. Carr also made a goal saving defensive play late in the second half.

“Emilee is an underrated defender in league but I think the team knows the value she adds,” Winegar said.

Though they made slightly more mundane plays than Carr, Elder and fellow interior defender Amber Cook walled the Blues off for most of the game.

“Tia and Amber partnered with each other really well. That’s what makes us so strong in the back,” Winegar said.

Goalkeeper Emily Iverson, who normally splits time with Allison Davis, played the entire game against the Blues and excelled with extended minutes.

Late in the first half she saved a shot and then subsequently gobbled up a St. Mary’s forward’s one-on-one chance. She also tipped a long-range shot headed for the back of the net against the bar in the second half.

“Emily played amazing today. Her punts were great. Her coverage was good,” Winegar said. “She’s a smart goalie.”

Winegar said Iverson has not yet won fulltime goalkeeper duties and will evaluate the situation on “a day-by-day basis.”

Senior forward Skylee Doman led the Cougars in shots on goal and carried their offense in the first half.

“Skylee has had some amazing rockets. She took the team on her back,” Winegar said.

But early in the second half, junior forward Kyra Mull led an invigorated attack, nearly scoring after recovering a shot from Doman and then sending a header just over the goalpost.

“She has had a little bit of a slow start to the season but out of the blue she is starting to connect more,” Winegar said.

In the midfield, junior Mackenzie Lee and sophomore Mya Pottratz worked well in unison while Pottratz showcased newfound physicality.

“Mya played extremely smart, hustled really hard defensively and got physical,” Winegar said. “She has the size to do that.”

The Cougars offense coalesced for much of the night but couldn’t create any easy chances or finish difficult ones.

St. Mary’s defense, which has shut out five teams this year, played a big part in keeping Canby off the scoreboard.

“They played desperate defense and at times that kept us out of the back of the net,” Winegar said. “Against a team that was less heady we would have scored goal after goal.”

Ironically, before he heard about the St. Mary’s player’s comment after the game, Winegar told his team they should strive to earn the respect of every opponent.

While he said they did not earn respect in a loss to Glencoe last week, they accomplished that task vs. St. Mary’s.

“I’m impressed with the kids. I think all of a sudden their urgency and intensity have picked up a lot,” Winegar said. “I’m looking forward to see what they show me next.”

The Cougars will host Lakeridge (4-0-3) on Thursday, Oct. 1.

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