MURRAY — Before Thursday afternoon’s 5A quarterfinal playoff game, Murray head coach Brady Smith had a simple message for his team.
“I think our message was that we didn’t play our best soccer in the first round and that we were going to show up and deliver it today,” Smith said.
Murray did exactly that, delivering a dominating 5-1 win over the Roy Royals to advance to the semifinals.
One of the points of emphasis in the Spartans’ game plan was to be in attack mode at all three levels (forwards, midfield, defense) and to score right off the bat.
Murray came out of the gates aggressive, and it took all of three minutes for the Spartans to net the first goal of the game, on a direct free kick outside of the penalty box from senior Abbi Graham.
“Abbi Graham, our senior goal scorer, came out and got two goals, and that’s the way a senior step up and makes sure that we’re headed to the semifinals,” Smith said.
After that first goal from Graham, the floodgates opened for the Spartans as Murray scored two more goals in the first eight minutes of the game to take an early 3-0 lead.
In the sixth minute, sophomore Ella Mckenna threaded a through ball to senior Kylee Thomson, who knocked it in for a score. Just two minutes later, Graham secured a brace after beating her defender and chipping it over the goalkeeper.
“I think you have early success and it’s easier to play downhill and that’s what happened the rest of that half,” Smith said.
Roy responded with a goal off of a free kick, scored by junior Dylan Dingman, to make it 3-1.
“We have confidence, we know we’re a good offensive team, and it helps to get an early goal, but the big thing is that we stayed together and we played at all three levels and we just kept our foot on the pedal,” Smith said.
Sofonia would score a goal of her own, the only score of the second half, in the 62nd minute, off of a through ball from Graham, to cap off a complete team effort.
Expect for the goal from Dingman, Murray’s defense stood tall and kept the Royals from mounting a comeback or seizing any momentum all game.
“I think they’re a group that’s been committed all year to improving. They locked it down, bottom line. They stepped up and won balls in the air and they marked out their best players of the game, so they did their job,” Smith said.
Murray advances to the semifinals on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at Juan Diego, where it will face Timpview, who defeated Skyridge 2-0 in the quarterfinals.
“We couldn’t be more excited. We’re ready. We’re definitely excited to be here,” Smith said.