Impossible to win if you can’t score.
That was the predicament the Mayo boys soccer team put Northfield in Thursday night at Mayo Stadium. With it, the Spartans are headed to the Section 1AA finals for the second straight year.
Mayo rode its typical clamping defense as well as a pair of first-half goals to beat the Raiders 2-0. The teams had tied 1-1 earlier this season.
Next up for the second-seeded Spartans is a 7 p.m. championship game Tuesday against No. 4 seed Lakeville South at Mayo. The Cougars upset No. 1 seed Farmington 1-0 in the other semifinal.
“I told our players before the game that we need to mark our opponent and that we need to protect vital open spaces on defense,” Mayo longtime coach Charles Abboud said. “We did a great job of that.”
The Spartans also did a fine job of giving themselves an immediate lift, all while quickly taking the life out of Northfield. It did that behind the right left leg of Jonathan Wright.
With just 3 minutes gone in the first half, Wright turned on a bouncing ball 20 yards directly in front of the Northfield goal, and with nothing in front of him, blasted it past Raiders goalie Jair Asencio Puga.
“The ball came to me, and I just kicked it up and over the defense,” Wright said. “I took the shot and just hoped it went it win.”
It would be the only goal necessary for Mayo, which allows less than one goal per game.
“That goal had a big influence on us,” Abboud said. “But it also had a big impact on (Northfield). To be down 1-0 just (3 minutes) into the game I’m sure surprised them.”
Northfield was down twice as much 21 minutes later. This time it was Kellen Claton scoring, making good on a penalty kick.
From there, Mayo’s midfielders and defenders were able to finish things up.
They did it in part by employing a specific directive from Abboud. It was to have defender Zach Spindler-Krage shadow star Northfield forward Pascal Cogan wherever he went.
It’s the same method sometimes used by basketball teams, then called a box-and-one.
It was a box that Cogan could not shake free from. It was the same thing the last time the teams met, when Spindler-Krage also followed him everywhere. Cogan came up empty that night, too.
“That was my job, to be on (Cogan’s) back all the time,” Spindler-Krage said.
And why Spindler-Krage?
“Because he’s got a calm demeanor, he’s skilled and he has the vision to defend, always reacting to where he needs to be,” Abboud said.
Spindler-Krage likes how his entire team is reacting. Mayo has now outscored its two playoff opponents by a combined 7-1.
“We are improving and our confidence is way up,” Spindler-Krage said.
Mayo moved to 9-4-5 overall, while Northfield finished 11-2-2.
Mayo 2, Northfield 0
Northfield: Goalie: Jair Asencio Puga 5 saves.
Mayo: Jonathan Wright 1 goal; Kellen Claton 1 goal. Goalie: Grahame Grinnell 3 saves.