With the way Minot High's girls soccer team has defended this season, one could argue that Thursday's game at Herb Parker Stadium was over inside the game's opening minute.
Less than 30 seconds into the game, the Majettes forced a corner kick, which was swept in by the left foot of junior forward Taryn Love. The in-sweeping cross found the feet of Minot junior defender Malena Lennon, who slotted in from close range to put her team ahead.
Despite an industrious effort from a youthful Mandan side, Lennon's goal turned out to be the game-winner, and the Majettes went on to win 2-0.
Minot High senior midfielder Makaila Anderson plays the ball past
Mandan senior defender Shayne Keller Thursday at Herb Parker Stadium.
Minot junior striker Teasha Hughes fights for
possession with a Mandan defender during the first half.
To get the opening goal so early was a huge factor in the win, according to Minot coach Matt Pfau.
"I think it was really big for us, especially coming off Tuesday's game when we had a big scoring night," Pfau said. "To get one right away and get the momentum going in our direction was big."
Minot has conceded just one goal in eight West Region contests this season.
The Braves may have trailed for a majority of the game, but it seemed to have no effect on their work rate.
Mandan pressured the ball with enthusiasm, disrupting Minot's ability to dominate possession of the ball. Yet the better chances belonged to the Majettes (9-1 overall, 7-1 West Region), particularly in the second half.
With nearly half the team's roster comprised of freshmen and sophomores, Mandan coach Jennifer Kessler congratulated her players after the game for their spirited effort.
"I'm actually very pleased," Kessler said. "Minot is a very good team with a lot of depth on their bench. Our seniors really busted their butts today to try to get a goal, but sometimes that's just how it works."
Following Lennon's opening goal, chances were limited during the first half for both sides.
Mandan managed its best chance for an equalizer 30 seconds before halftime with a well-positioned free-kick opportunity, but the buzzer relinquished the danger for Minot.
The Majettes thought they had made it 2-0 just under 15 minutes into the second half, but a late offside decision nullified the goal.
Senior midfielder Paige Melby played Love through on goal, which led to a goal-bound shot.
But junior midfielder Stephanie Huether touched the shot on its way into the net from an offside position. No goal.
While that chance may have gone begging, the Majettes were in complete control afterward. Energy from the Minot forwards was the primary catalyst.
"Running up top is something that's working really well for us," said Love, who went on to notch Minot's second goal. "When we crash the ball and the other team fumbles or the goalie lets it slip through her fingers, there's someone there at all times. Hustle is a big thing for our team."
In the game's waning moments, the chances started flowing for the Majettes, and Love was able to provide a finishing touch with just over 10 minutes to play.
After dispossessing Mandan senior McKenzie Martin, Love dribbled into the box from 35 yards out. With acres of space to shoot, the Minot striker buried her chance with a strong shot over the keeper, doubling her team's advantage.
Love has now scored five goals in the last two games.
Her goal Thursday put the game out of reach for Mandan, which had no answer for the stingy Minot defense, which put in another strong shift to notch its seventh clean sheet of the season and third straight.
"I think that's the strongest part of our team," Lennon said. "Last year, that was our strong suit too, but now our offense is starting to make us a force to be reckoned with."
Minot travels to Jamestown for a game at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.