MONMOUTH — The Mustangs played like they were in a hurry to get home and celebrate.

With blistering pace and pinpoint accuracy, Monmouth Academy senior Tia Day set up a pair of goals in the first three minutes of the second half, snapping a tie and leading the Mustangs to a 4-2 win over rival Madison on Saturday night in a Mountain Valley Conference matchup under the blaring homecoming lights. For Day, who also scored a goal late in the first half, it marked the first home win over the Bulldogs during her high school career.

Both Monmouth and Madison, the top two teams in Class C South entering the weekend, are now 5-1-0.

“We’d never beaten Madison on our home field,” Day said. “Tonight was our perfect opportunity on homecoming. Definitely, being a senior and only seeing them once (this season), I wanted to beat them.”

Day made sure it would happen, wasting little time after the halftime break.

First, her grounded cross found sophomore Audrey Fletcher inside the area for Fletcher’s second goal of the game in the 41st minute. Day followed that in the 43rd minute, on the opposite side of the pitch, chasing down Emily Grandahl’s long ball to the left corner and centering for freshman Alicen Burnham. Burnham never stopped churning toward the ball and popped it home for the 4-2 lead.

“I love playing with (Day),” Fletcher said. “If you call for it, she just puts it on a tee for you.”

Madison had no answer for Monmouth’s speed, even after taking the lead through senior striker Sydney LeBlanc in the 12th minute. Only three minutes after falling behind, Fletcher pulled the goal back with her first of the night — intercepting a goal kick at the top of the arc outside the 18-yard box, touching to her right and ripping a bullet inside the far post.

It was a clear illustration of Monmouth’s locked-in targeting system. The Mustangs took 23 shots in total on the night — a remarkable 17 of those on frame. The accuracy even surprised head coach Gary Trafton.

“Really?” Trafton said. “Last year, we had tons of shots over the net. This year, we’ve been working really hard to get them on net or at least get them onto somebody, so we can at least get some rebounds.”

Speed was on display again in the 33rd minute, when Day ran down a long Grandahl ball along the left side to get in alone 1-v-1 with Madison goalkeeper Lauren Hay. Hay (15 saves) did well to get off her line, diving to smother Day’s first bid. But when she couldn’t control the rebound, Day slid in and poked the ball home for the 2-1 lead.

A wild first half ended with Jillian Holden’s goal via a broken corner kick play in stoppage time to pull Madison even at 2-2, but despite the deceiving scoreline the bulk of first-half play had belonged to the Mustangs.

Monmouth’s speed on the counterattack, and Madison’s inability to link up its attack through the midfield — where Grandahl, Day, Fletcher and Burnham were so efficient for the home team — was concerning.

“Quick transitions today (for Monmouth). They played to their strengths, and it worked for them,” Madison co-coach Erin Wood said. “We kept trying to push it down the middle, even though we’ve been talking about not doing that. It’s that pace of play we haven’t adjusted to yet… It was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get rid of the ball’ instead of making good decisions.

“We knew they were fast, but they had more fast players than we anticipated.”

Trafton knew his side had an advantage it could utilize, and changing up his midfield group — and his formation — after a loss to Oak Hill earlier in the week helped the Mustangs put their speed to work for them.

“It is big with speed. You can have all the greatest footwork, but if you get two or three girls around you, you’re not going to be able to do anything with it,” Trafton said. “We have speed. Alicen is a lot quicker than I thought … and Audrey’s not slow, either. Tia’s really deceiving. She’s not real fast, but she’s got deceiving speed. They all work really well together.”

Day, et al, stormed out of the intermission to essentially put the game away with the two quick strikes, before most of the large, boisterous crowd had even returned from the lines at the concession stand. Madison, on tired legs from chasing too many long balls over the first hour of play, simply ran out of gas down the stretch as it tried to make up the deficit.

“We have a lot of speedy girls,” Day said. “I personally expected Madison to be more speedy than us. But I guess with the crowd and everyone cheering us on, it made us faster. I felt like we were a bit faster tonight than usual.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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