MONMOUTH — Two half time adjustments — one tactical and one physical — made a world of difference in the second half for the Monmouth Academy girls soccer team.

A 1-0 halftime lead turned into a more comfortable 4-0 victory for the top-seeded Mustangs over No. 4 St. Dominic Academy in a Class C South semifinal at Chick Field.

“We just talked about coming out with intensity,” Monmouth senior Emily Grandahl said. “The last couple games we haven’t come out very strong, and then we pick up later in the game. So we knew that right at the start of the second half we had to come out strong and intense because we were only up 1-0 and we needed to bring the lead up.”

The Mustangs now host a regional final against No. 2 Madison, whose only loss was to the Mustangs in Monmouth’s homecoming game.

Grandahl helped increase the lead just under 15 minutes into the second half, sending a ball to an open Tia Day to the right of the goal. Day hit a one-timer over the head of St. Dom’s goalie Rileigh Stebbins to double the Mustangs’ (15-1) lead.

“I moved Tia right before that because Tia was on the other side and the girl was really marking her hard, and I was just thinking ‘let’s try it over here,'” Monmouth coach Gary Trafton said. “Emily gave her a great ball and Tia made a heck of a shot over here. She doesn’t play this side very much, mostly the left side, but she can play any place.”

Saints (8-7-1) coach Patrick Keary said the goal “really took the wind out of us a little bit.”

Keary said the game plan was to defend with numbers in the first half and try to steal a goal. The Saints had chances early to do that with early corner kicks, but goalie Destiny Clough and the Mustang defense held strong.

“They showed fairly tough,” Keary said. “They made it really difficult for us to break through.”

Trafton said his team was flat before the game and it stayed that way in the first half. But the Mustangs broke onto the scoreboard first on their second corner kick of the game. Day’s ball from the right corner went to Audrey Fletcher near the back post. Fletcher’s first shot was stopped by a St. Dom’s defender, but she got her own rebound and put her second chance in.

The Saints had another surge early in the second half with a chance to tie the game, but Clough made a tough save on a long shot by Emma Theriault and the defense squashed chances by Emily Wallingford and Addie Suckow.

“I just think we kind of weathered the storm down there for a while,” Trafton said. “They had some saves, Destiny came out and made a couple good saves there. The defense has held up well.”

“They definitely defended well when they needed to,” Keary said. “On another day we might have been able to grab a goal there and push on with some momentum, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

Fletcher scored her second goal of the game 10 minutes after Day’s lead-doubling goal. Grandahl sent a free kick from 35 yards out to the top of the box, where Fletcher won the ball and, on her second touch, blasted a shot past Stebbins.

“If it’s on the side, we like to just get a chip ball right over to the other side because we have Tia, Audrey, Alicen (Burnham) — our really strong forwards,” Grandahl said. “They’re really hungry for the ball, so I know they’ll be crashing on it, so I like to just play it right around those three.”

Burnham put the game away with just under nine minutes to play. Day sent a cross from the right side to the left, where Burnham had switched with her earlier in the half. Burnham made a strong run to the loose ball and beat Stebbins, who came out aggressively from her spot.

“Alicen and Audrey have been struggling for goals, getting their shots on,” Trafton said. “And I’ve talked to them, (assistant coach Allie Trafton) has talked to them, ‘Hey, you just got to go through a rut. You’re going to get through it, and just keep working.’ And they did. And it finally paid off for those two girls.”