MONMOUTH ā€” The Monmouth Academy girls soccer team is unbeaten no longer.

A match which both sides expected to be won on the strength of its untested defenders was instead settled in the midfield, where Madison took control late in the first half and never let go en route to a 3-1 Mountain Valley Conference win Thursday afternoon.

Monmouth senior Haley Fletcher’s second half goal was countered by strikes from Bulldogs Emily Edgerly and Ashley Emery to seal the victory for Madison.

Both teams are now 11-1-0 and tied atop the Class C South Heal point standings.

“This means a lot,” Emery said. “We were really excited to play this game and we had some nerves. We knew we had to come out really hard.”

Monmouth lost junior midfielder Emily Grandahl to injury 10 minutes into the second half, after she and Madison’s Madeline Wood collided while trying to get their heads on a corner kick. With Grandahl out, Madison built a 2-0 lead in the 53rd minute, as Sydney LeBlanc gained possession along the end line, turned her defender and centered into a crowd in front of Monmouth goalkeeper Katie Harris. Edgerly, who also scored the game-winning goal against Lisbon earlier in the week, was in front for the tap-in goal.

“All we can do is play as a team, work hard and make strong passes to each other,” said Edgerly, a freshman. “It’s just how it plays out. It’s two good teams and probably some good luck (for me).”

Fletcher pulled one back for the home team in the 60th minute, but the Monmouth momentum was short-lived.

Just minutes after carving through the Mustang midfield for a scoring opportunity that failed to connect, Emery again slashed her way into the attacking third with the ball at her feet before carrying unchallenged to the left side of the 18-yard box. She cut the ball back onto her right foot, looked off runner Wood at the top of the area and curled a sizzler around Harris (14 saves) into the far corner for a 3-1 lead.

“We call her ‘The Silent Assassin,'” Madison co-head coach Erin Wood said. “She can beat anybody in space. She has the ability to beat any defender we’ve played, and she sees the field well. The other thing that’s remarkable about her is her ability to come back and get the ball from people without them having any idea that she’s behind them. She just comes in, dispossesses them and goes.”

Monmouth coach Gary Trafton said that Grandahl’s absence had little effect on the match’s outcome.

“You lose a quality player, but to be honest with you, they just physically beat us to the ball and controlled the ball,” Trafton said. “One person’s not going to change it. Yeah, she’s a very good player, but that wasn’t the reason we lost.”

It was evident, however, that the Bulldogs were the better team over the final 35 minutes. Armed with a two-goal advantage, Madison’s midfield ably distributed the ball and kept pressure off its group of backs.

“It was just controlling the play out there and making good passes,” Emery said.

“We closed some space,” Erin Wood said. “We talked about the fact that there was a huge gap between our backs and our offense. We made an adjustment in the middle so there was less of a gap, and that was big for us.”

Madeline Wood drew first for Madison, whose only previous loss of the season came at home against Monmouth on opening day last month, with her goal in the 20th minute. A weak goal kick turned into a 50-50 ball in the Mustang end, where Wood won it and was left to walk in alone for the first goal of the afternoon.

Less than two minutes later, it appeared Madison would suffer the same fate on a poor clearance, but Audrey Fletcher’s low bid missed the far post by inches.

Madison had a chance to double the lead at the half, when Wood linked up with LeBlanc and Shelby Belanger in the final third, but Harris charged off her line to smother Wood’s would-be shot.

“They have worked a little bit harder, and they’ve gotten ahead of us now,” Trafton said. “We control the rest of the season. We’ll see how we react coming back from this.”

Travis Barrett ā€” 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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