Tigers bury chances

Published 8:03 am Friday, September 26, 2008

If there were any remaining questions about the Albert Lea girls’ soccer team’s ability to finish they were answered Thursday night at Hammer Field in an 8-2 win over Winona.

The Tigers (11-3-1, 6-2-1) didn’t have as many shots as expected in a rout but Albert Lea maximized its efficiency.

Chelsea LeBrun and Ariel Christensen hooked up for a goal five minutes into the match when Christensen threaded a pass to LeBrun who knocked the ball into the far corner of the goal. LeBrun scored later in the half on a breakaway and Taylor Freihl added a pair of goals as the Tigers jumped out to a 7-0 lead at halftime.

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LeBrun and Christensen connected again three minutes into the second half and Albert Lea cruised to another conference win.

Entering the season head coach Rick Barnhill wasn’t positive his team would generate this kind of offense and when the Tigers lost midfielder Jenna Christensen for the season the offensive production became even more important.

“I felt the need to take on her role of scoring,” LeBrun said.

The offense hasn’t suffered as LeBrun and Ariel Christensen have emerged as complimentary players who can find each other near the net for goals.

“We really don’t have to communicate, we just have to see where each other is at,” LeBrun said. “We call it the ‘buckle,’ we’re always together and clicked at the hip. If I’m not there, she’s there.”

With LeBrun’s three-goal game she increased her season total to 14 goals and Christensen has 12 on the year.

“Chelsea and Ariel have really become a dynamic duo and they play off of each other well,” Barnhill said. “The way that those two have played has allowed us to move forward and carry on in regard to the absence of Abbey and Jenna. Their production has been remarkable. It’s exceeded what I could have expected.”

The Winhawks applied pressure early in the first half, but Christensen and LeBrun put an end to any chance of a Winona win after they started dashing down the sidelines.

Christensen, LeBrun and Alex Ciota all sprinted down the sidelines during the first half, moving in behind the Winona defense and creating scoring opportunities quickly.

Jessica Malepsy was the beneficiary of an opportunity created by LeBrun in the first half as she took a cross from LeBrun and found the back of the net for her first career goal at any level.

Madi Passingham scored at the 14-minute mark with a left-footed rocket from 25 yards out for the third goal of the game and Heather Greibrok added a teardrop goal from 30 yards out on a left-footed shot that was just over the goalkeeper’s head.

The Tigers had 24 shots in the first half and with seven goals in the half, scored at pace that was just under every fourth shot. Barnhill was pleased with how efficient the attack performed given that the team struggled early in the season with finishing scoring chances.

“It couldn’t come at a better time at this point in the season,” Barnhill said. “I think that it’s essential that you get quality finishing. They put some detail to their effort.”

Winona added two goals in the later stages of the second half as the Tigers toned down the attack. Barnhill played much of the second half with just eight field players. He said he did so in hopes that his team would make more of an effort to build an attack through making a series of passes.

“My desire was that we play in a more indirect manner with such a big lead,” Barnhill said. “I didn’t want balls flying over the top and going to goal with every touch.”