GRANGER TWP. — The sigh of relief heard Monday night came from Brunswick’s girls soccer team.
Clinging to a one-goal advantage late in the second half and with pesky Highland knocking at the door, the Blue Devils needed something to break the game open.
They found it in goals from Nikki Shotzbarger and Marissa Fabrizi in less than a minute to claim a 3-0 non-league victory over the Hornets.
“That was huge,” said junior midfielder Macey Juguilon, who assisted on Shotzbarger’s goal. “I was so happy. I kicked that and I was hoping she was running and she was.”
It was the exactly what the Blue Devils (3-0) needed after controlling play for the majority of the first half, but having just one goal to show for it.
With the Hornets (2-2) adjusting their formation, the second half was a different story as the game got more physical and saw Highland get a handful of quality chances.
The final minutes were so stressful that if Brunswick coach Scott Ward had a full head of hair, he would be pulling it out.
“I don’t have much more to lose,” he joked. “Highland played well and their keeper (Madison Less) played an amazing game, so when we started getting a couple of goals there, it was a relief to know it wasn’t so close.”
Highland didn’t have its first shot on goal until 10 minutes into the second half, but uncorked six more attempts, three of which were on frame, once coach Gina Fox went to a three-forward alignment.
Forward Amanda Schniegenberg had a pair of tries, along with one from midfielder Anna Rose Wiencek, but all were saved by Brunswick goalkeeper Erin Calhoun.
“We ran at them with everything we had,” Fox said. “I tried to roll the dice and that ends up being on me in the end. We had some opportunities, but unfortunately we didn’t put any of them away. It falls back on me.
“If we had gambled and won, I would’ve been the smart coach. When you lose, you’re just the fool that gambled. But the girls played hard, so that one’s on me.”
With the Hornets running multiple players into the offensive third, the Blue Devils finally caught a break with less than 7 minutes remaining. Juguilon played a ball at midfield through a seam in the defense to find a streaking Shotzbarger, who calmly put it in the back of the net.
Just 29 seconds later, Fabrizi found daylight and scored her first goal of the season off a feed from Marissa Jenkins to provide insurance.
“We weren’t selfish,” Shotzbarger said. “We weren’t just going to the goal and we’re passing to each other. I really think that’s how I scored and the rest of the goals were scored, because we just kept passing.”
The composure stood out to Ward after missed chances in the first half.
“I think (Highland) had the better play in the second half with a little bit more intensity and pressured a little bit more,” he said. “We kept them in the game and allowed it to be 1-0, but not finishing a couple and some great saves by their keeper kept them in it.
“Whenever it’s 1-0, you still have hope, so when we got the next one it was a little bit of relief.”
Despite the loss, Less was impressive with a couple of diving stops and finding ways to keep her team in the game. The best save came with less than 10 minutes left, when Gabby Maslowski fired a rocket that Less knocked away with her fingertips while diving to her left.
“Less is a very composed keeper,” Fox said. “Those last two goals were breakdowns, but she had some remarkable saves. As a goalkeeper you have to make the regular, daily saves, and then you have to make some spectacular ones and she did.”
Less finished with six saves, while counterpart Calhoun had three — all coming in the second half.
“We just had to keep our mindset on keeping the ball and getting it up the field and not getting countered,” Juguilon said. “We wanted to go get the shutout today and we did, so I’m happy.”
Highland was without the services of defenders Elle Cain (concussion) and Sam Sube (hamstring), along with midfielder Hannah Wingate (foot).
• The start of the game was delayed 13 minutes as two of the officials waited for their third partner to arrive.
• Behind goals from freshman Kasi Safko and Lauren Mayell, Brunswick’s junior varsity won 2-0. With the victory, the Blue Devils improved to 3-0.
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.