Grand's goal gives Yellowjackets conference win over Platteville
On a picture-perfect afternoon at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth, the Yellowjacket men's soccer team looked to get the off on the right foot as it opened the conference schedule. The opponent on the day was UW-Platteville, the choice of WIAC coaches and sports information directors to win the 2013 conference title.
The championship hopes of the Pioneers took a hit on the turf in Duluth. A goal with under 15 minutes to play in regulation time was all the Yellowjackets needed as they upended Platteville 1-0.
Both teams had scoring opportunities in the early going, but goalkeepers Ian Christensen of the Pioneers and Matt Elder (New Hope, Minn./Robbinsdale Armstrong) of the Yellowjackets closed the door and kept things scoreless. The Yellowjackets attempted seven shots in the half compared to Platteville's five, and had a 5-2 edge in shots on goal, only to come up empty.
In the second half had an even more significant advantage in shots attempted at 9-3, but had a hard time hitting the net, putting only two on goal, not including a shot by Brian Grand (North Branch, Minn./North Branch) that hit the crossbar in the 69th minute.
The Yellowjackets finally got one that counted in the 76th minute, and once again it was their offensive catalyst who got it done.
On a free kick, Brian Chapman (Maple Grove, Minn.) put a shot out front from the right side and Grand got the ball at its highest point, directing the header home for his team-leading fifth goal of the season to make it 1-0.
With under 15 minutes to play, the Yellowjackets were masterful at keeping the ball on Platteville's end of the field, not allowing the Pioneers to generate any offense near Elder. With time winding down the Yellowjackets continued to play the ball to Platteville's end, forcing the offense to reset. In the final minute, defensive plays by Matt Kelley (Maple Grove, Minn./Maple Grove) and Ben Royce (Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Simley) kept Platteville from mounting a final attack and salted away the win.
Grand and Nate Engel (Maple Grove, Minn./Maple Grove) led the Yellowjackets with four shots each. Two of Grand's shots were on goal, also a team high.
Elder was again perfect in goal, turning aside four shots to pick up his second shutout of the season. He improves to 3-3-1 on the year. At the other end Christensen finished the match with six saves on seven shots.
The Yellowjackets (3-4-1, 1-0-0 WIAC) will hit the road on Tuesday, September 24 when they travel to St. Paul to take on Bethel University. Game time is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.