Grogan powers Blue Raiders to 3-1 win

MT concludes four-match homestand Sunday

September 1, 2006 · MT Media Relations

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Junior forward Holly Grogan engineered a hard-fought 3-1 win against Evansville in the opening round of the Middle Tennessee Soccer Classic in front of 628 at Blue Raider Field Friday night.

Grogan powered in two goals and assisted Kala Morgan on another as Middle Tennessee (3-0) won its 14th straight at Blue Raider Field and put itself in position to win the Classic for the third time in as many tries.

"This Evansville team, I think, is the best team we have played thus far and the toughest team we have played," said Middle Tennessee Head Coach Aston Rhoden. "I don't think the score reflects how close this game was. This was a very good win for us."

Middle Tennessee will face Jacksonville State Sunday at 3 p.m. in the final game of the Classic. Western Kentucky, which faces Evansville Sunday at 1 p.m., secured a 3-1 win against the Gamecocks in the first game Friday.

Grogan continued her torrid start to the 2006 season with a dynamic all-around performance against the Purple Aces (1-1) with splendid passing and scoring as she totaled five points in the contest.

"This team has been brilliant at the start and I think the biggest thing is we play so well together," Grogan said. "The atmosphere has been great and our team chemistry is very good. We are all contributing in different ways and that's a good thing because it makes us difficult to defend."

Defending Grogan was no easy task Friday as she moved into sixth on the career points list (48) and career goals scored list (20), while climbing into a tie for first on the career game-winning goals list at Middle Tennessee with the 10th of her stellar career.

She was at her best in the clutch against Evansville with two second half goals to break a 1-1 deadlock and help keep the Blue Raiders perfect on the season. The talented forward earned her third assist of the season when she chipped a pass to Kala Morgan, who pounced on the loose ball in the box and knocked it past a stranded Whitney Raeon in goal in the fourth minute.

Evansville tied the score 1-1 in the 11th minute on Kayla Lambert's second goal of the season and the game would remain tied until the intermission.

"Evansville is a very physical team and we challenged our team at the half," Rhoden said. "We talked to them about protecting what is our house and to make sure we get back to doing what we like to do, which is make teams defend us. We defended way too much in the first half for the type of players we have. In the second half we came out and you saw right away a different mentality attacking wise."

Middle Tennessee gained the lead thanks to great work by Morgan as she powered down the right side, leaving two defenders in their wake. Morgan squared a great ball across the box where Jennifer Threlkeld instantly killed it with the first touch and then drove a powerful shot at the keeper, who punched it clear. Grogan swooped up the rebound and instinctively volleyed it past Raeon and into the net for what would prove to be the game-winner in the 46th minute to move into a tie with Danielle LaDuke with eight career game-deciding goals.

Grogan saved her best for last as her third score of the season brought the crowd to its feet. She chased down an overhead ball from the right side, turned and faced the goal, cut inside her defender and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the far top corner to put the exclamation on the win.

Middle Tennessee continued to receive outstanding defensive play, particularly in the second half. The Blue Raiders' strong offseason conditioning program has paid dividends as they have not allowed a second-half goal and are outscoring the opposition 6-0 after the break. The Blue Raiders also have allowed a total of just seven shots in the second half in their first three games combined.

Ingrid Christensen, Katy Rayburn, Sara Wohlhueter, and Kate Donnelly were strong along the back once again, while sophomore keeper Courtney Fortner had her best all-around game.

Fortner had two dazzling saves and curtailed two other scoring opportunities in one-on-one chances to improve to 4-0 in goal for her career. Fortner's only start as a freshman came at Evansville and she was solid in a 2-1 road win.

"She had a very good performance. I guess she likes playing Evansville," Rhoden said. "She came up big against them last year in a 2-1 win and when we needed her tonight, she came up big."

The Blue Raiders will conclude their four-match homestand to start the season against Jacksonville State Sunday at 3 p.m. at Blue Raider Field.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.