They score goals. They set up attacking players around them. If there’s a tackle to be made in the midfield, if possession needs to be won, they’re called upon to do that, too.

A cliche becomes such for a reason, but there’s no denying its simple truth in this particular case: As central midfielders Ashley Emery and Emily Grandahl go, so go the Madison and Monmouth girls soccer teams.

When the two Mountain Valley Conference rivals tangle Saturday night in Monmouth, it’s a certainty that the seniors will be in the center of it all.


“She’s really got to win all the balls kicked into the middle of the field,” Monmouth head coach Gary Trafton said of Grandahl, though the same holds true for Emery. “If she wins them, we can control the pace of the game. … That’s her job, to control that part of the field and make sure the midfield is winning the majority of them.”

With Madeline Wood having graduated from Madison last spring, Emery has blossomed into the attacking threat the Bulldogs needed. Wood may have been the only senior to graduate from the 2016 squad that played for the Class C South regional title, but she took 25 goals with her when she left.

“The last few years, what (Emery) really did was play more of a defensive game and allow Madeline to move up the field,” Madison co-coach Mike Walsh said. “This year, we’re asking her to be the one to get the goals. That’s what we’re looking for with her.”

Clearly, it’s working. With 10 goals already this season, Emery needs just one more to match her season total from a year ago.

“She seemed hesitant to shoot last year,” Walsh said. “We’ve been encouraging her. We encouraged her all summer, and it was coming along. Finally, once the season started, she kicked in. It’s a good thing, because it’s what we needed from her.”

“Ashley’s amazing,” Bulldog senior striker Sydney LeBlanc added. “She literally leads the team in everything. I don’t even know what it would be like without her.”

For now, at least, the Bulldogs don’t have to think about it.

Emery opened the season with three straight hat tricks, helping Madison out to a 4-0-0 start and the top spot in the Class C South Heal point standings through Wednesday.

She added a goal and two assists in a win Tuesday over Hall-Dale, giving her more than half of the team’s goals — the Bulldogs have 19 — and five assists with more than two-thirds of the schedule remaining.

Emery knows that, as a senior, she has a role to play that goes beyond a supporting performer.

“I feel like we want to be really successful, and if our seniors bring it then the whole team will benefit,” Emery said.

Emery does more than just score goals. Against Hall-Dale, after nearly six minutes of the Bulldogs trying to beat the ball down the middle of the park to no avail, she made the simple decision to make a move to the outside.

Two touches later and her cross was in the back of the net, off the foot of LeBlanc, for an early goal.

Emery and Grandahl play the dual role of center midfield well. Not only do they orchestrate the free kicks and corner kicks, they are the catalysts for the attack and serve as the first line of defending in the center of the park.

They are creative, determined and, obviously, talented. It’s a mixture that is rarely found in any single player — leaving most coaches trying to find a combination of several players to complement one another in a collaborative effort.

Grandahl has six goals for Monmouth (3-1-0), but the measure of her value goes beyond statistics. After starting her career as a center back, Grandahl — who will play at Merrimack College next year — has been ushered into the midfield to make better use of her skill set and ability to distribute.

The same goes for Emery.

“(Grandahl) runs the plays. She has a better look out there than I do,” Trafton said. “She can read everything.

“You give more responsibilities to the kids that are more experienced. They see things I don’t see. They have different angles. They aren’t little robots out there.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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