Van Rooy, Tech brush off Crookston

HOUGHTON – Last year, midfielder Lindsey Van Rooy led all scorers on the GLIAC winning Michigan Tech women’s soccer team by putting herself in dangerous positions in front of goal and showing a killer instinct with the ball at her feet.

Her senior season looks to be more of the same.

The Huskies picked up right where they left off last year, posting a season-opening 2-0 victory over Minnesota-Crookston Thursday night at Sherman Field with relative ease. The hosts dominated possession – putting 12 shots on goal to the Golden Eagles’ three – and forced Crookston to defend with 10 players behind the ball, the ultimate sign of submission.

And right in the middle of it all from the get-go was Van Rooy.

Playing as a midfielder just behind the forward line, the senior netted the opening strike of the season less than four minutes into the game in classic poacher fashion. After sophomore Lexi Herrewig flicked in a dangerous cross to the top of the area, Van Rooy pounced on a failed Crookston clearance, took one settling touch and curled in a right-footed strike from 20 yards out to give Tech a sudden 1-0 lead.

“To come out and score a goal in the first five minutes of the game was exactly what we talked about in our pre-game meeting, to set the tone early,” Tech coach Michelle Jacob said. “(Van Rooy) is not a flashy player, but she is sneaky. She sees the gap, she has great vision on the field, so when everyone else is staring at the ball she sneaks into the spot she is going to make you pay for.”

Van Rooy got on the end of two more grade-A chances midway through the first half and only some superb reflex saves from Crookston’s Lexie Gauger kept the deficit at 1-0.

First right back Jenna Proctor picked out an inch-perfect cross to set up Van Rooy with her left-foot 10 yards out, but a rushing Gauger parried it away. Just minutes later, true freshman and left back Jessica Splittgerber – starting to replace the graduated Melanie Hoffman – found Van Rooy with a cross, only to see the thumping effort pushed wide by Gauger.

“When we get that first goal it just makes us hungry for more,” Van Rooy said. “We keep attacking and going, attacking and going. There is no slowing down from there.

“Our passing has definitely improved this year you can already see. We are incorporating everyone all around.”

The chances poured in from there – junior Alyssa Hynnek just missing a goal with a slightly-too heavy touch past a rushing Gauger, while senior Katie Boardman sent a couple efforts whizzing above the crossbar – but the Huskies didn’t finish the Eagles off until the 71st minute.

This time it came on a corner kick, with Boardman whipping in an in-swinging ball to the head of midfielder Annie Dahlquist, who calmly deposited the ball back-corner with a flicked header.

“(Boardman) puts it where it needs to go, she is really good about that,” Jacob said. “And Annie isn’t the tallest player (listed at 5-foot-5), but she got up and got to it first.”

On the other end of the pitch, Tech center back Kaitlyn Boelter turned in a “woman of the match” performance by stymieing the Golden Eagles counterattack the few times Crookston got the ball to their two forwards.

Each time a glimmer of an opportunity arose, the speedy Boelter was there to tackle it.

“She has so much speed and we are obviously very comfortable with her back there,” Jacob said. “We are comfortable with our outside backs going forward because we know with her there we are going to be safe.”

Jacob substituted liberally throughout the contest, giving minutes to 23 total players with five freshmen making their debut.

Even the goalkeepers split time with MaryBeth Spoehr starting the first half and Jenna Phelps coming on at the beginning of the second 45.

“We have so much depth and we don’t really lose anything when we sub,” Jacob said. “And as we have experienced over the last three years, you don’t want to make your starters play every minute of every game. They can’t last when it is this physical and fast.

“They are both great goalkeepers and we are confident with either one back there,” Jacob added.