CHIPPEWA FALLS — Things are starting to come together for the Menomonie soccer team.
On Tuesday, the Mustangs decided to put their improvements on display.
Menomonie, powered by standout set pieces and strong one-two play at the top of its formation, defeated Chippewa Falls 3-1 in Big Rivers play at Dorais Field. The Mustangs got goals from three different players and a generally solid defensive performance.
“The guys are playing really hard right now,” Menomonie coach Meagan Frank said. “They’re doing everything as a group, both offensively and defensively. They’re really clicking.”
The Mustangs (6-6-1, 1-5-0) have won three of their last four games.
Two goals in the first half built up a lead that would be too much for Chippewa Falls (0-7-0, 0-6-0) to overcome. Menomonie freshman Alejandro Noyola knocked a ball to Ilari Lahtinen in the penalty area in the 18th minute, and Lahtinen coolly sent it into the back of the net for the opener.
17 minutes later, Menomonie flexed its might on set pieces with a well-driven corner kick by Adam Wilson, which resulted in Noyola striking the ball in for a goal with a high-sweeping kick.
“Our corners were on tonight,” Wilson said.
The Mustangs had a number of great chances in the first half, and the deficit might have been greater if not for some outstanding goalkeeping on the part of Chippewa Falls’ Caleb Ray. The junior made a few diving, fingertip saves to deny golden opportunities for Menomonie.
“It’s mostly just adrenaline,” Ray said of the saves. “After the first save like that, everything else is just pretty much the same, but better. The first one is all you, but then it’s kind of like an out of body experience after that.”
Chippewa Falls didn’t have many opportunities to get on the scoreboard in the first half. Loren Beaudette bombed down the right wing in the 29th minute, Menomonie goalkeeper Jonny Fenton saved the senior’s shot.
Collin Albright had a one-on-one chance in the 42nd minute for the Cardinals, but Fenton made another save to keep them scoreless.
“We just lacked the tenacity, the grit,” Cardinals coach Justin Engum said. “There are guys that are working hard, but when it came down to it, when there were 50/50 balls bouncing, we didn’t get to them.”
Menomonie added a third goal in the 48th minute, when Wilson broke away from a defender and converted the scoring chance.
“Playing the ball with a one-two touch, passing it through the middle, and then getting a through ball to the end was big,” Wilson said.
Chippewa Falls got on the board in the 80th minute when John Bilda guided a ball into the back of the net with his body.
It was the lone slip-up for an otherwise solid Menomonie defense.
“Our back four were really, really solid, and (Fenton) played a great game,” Frank said.
Despite the loss, the end showed some promise for the Cardinals.
“(We turned it around) for 15 minutes toward the end,” Engum said.