By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– Regardless of the length of its winning streak or the number of shutouts it has, East Lincoln’s girls soccer coach Jason Dragoon is always striving for something better.
He saw the Mustangs’ best yet on Thursday.
Audrey Cardwell scored and had an assist and East Lincoln got past Bandys and its top-notch goal keeper to win 4-0 and stay on top of the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference.
The win was the ninth in a row for the Mustangs (9-3-1, 6-0-0), who own a one-game lead on second place Newton-Conover in the race for the SD-7 crown.
“I think we’re a really strong team that hadn’t quite performed, or put it out there yet,” Dragoon said. “That was nice to see that happen tonight.”
With the Trojans (5-4-0, 4-2) entering the match a game back in the standings after Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Newton-Conover, Dragoon knew his team needed to be more physically ready for the demands of Thursday’s match, as well as the one against rival North Lincoln today.
The crisp passing Dragoon hammered home showed up against Bandys, and it opened the field enough that the Mustangs were able to get some open looks at the net.
The next challenge was getting the ball past Syd Hall.
Freshman Kali Krehnbrink got that started with a header into the net over Hall’s reach for a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute.
Just over a minute later Cardwell picked up a loose ball near midfield and pushed it up ahead to Danielle Colanino, who got it past Hall for the 2-0 advantage.
With 4:30 left in the first half Cardwell was rewarded for her assist on a goal assisted by Cassidy Whisnant, and the 3-0 lead stood until the break.
Early in the second half East Lincoln was awarded a direct free kick when Tatum Auvil was fouled, and she caught Hall off guard on a shot 35 yards away.
Add that to keeper Molli Dallin’s sixth shutout of the season, and the Mustangs are well on their way to where they want to be –– conference champions and in the state semifinals of the playoffs.
“We’re knocking the ball around now. Now we’re playing like a team that’s one of the top in the state. We looked good tonight,” said Dragoon, whose team outshot the Trojans 8-3. “We trained hard (on Wednesday). I ran them into the ground, and we have two games in a row. I was just like, ‘Look, are we ready to play? Are we ready to start passing with pace and getting stuff done.’ When I said that they committed to it 100 percent.
“We want to be in the state semifinals. We don’t care what it takes.”