Laker boys' scoring attack finally ignites in soccer win over Crookston
Goals were coming at a premium for the Detroit Lakes boys' soccer team as they entered the Section 8-1A playoffs, as they scored only seven goals in the their final six games of the regular season.
Enter sophomore attacker Luke Payne.
The Laker recorded his first-ever hat trick in No. 3 DL's convincing 5-1 victory over No. 6 Crookston -- and he had them all by the end of the first half.
Payne struck for two quick tallies within the first 15 minutes of the game, then added his third late in the half to put the Lakers up comfortably 4-0 by halftime.
"The two early goals would not have been even close without the passing of my teammates," Payne said. "They made some nice thru-balls and the passing in the first half was very good."
The Lakers, who improved to 7-9 on the season, controlled possession for the majority of the second half, as DL outshot the Pirates by a wide 17-4 margin.
Junior forward Brady Crawford added a goal after Payne's first two, while junior midfielder Carlos Espinosa found the back of the net to put the Lakers firmly in control 5-0.
"Gaining that 2-0 lead early really settled us down," said DL head coach Justin Wegleitner. "Our start to the game was a little sloppy and we were forcing the ball. But after Luke scored those two goals, we started to look for better control passing."
It was DL's accurate, but aggressive passing, which worked the ball into the Pirates' penalty area and opened up plenty of shooting lanes for Payne and his teammates.
It also sucked the wind out of Crookston's sails, as a potential upset was pushed further and further away.
"You could see after they fell down by two goals, they started hanging their shoulders a bit," Payne said. "It feels good to get a hat trick for the team, too, and scoring five goals today shows we are a good Laker team."
Senior Christian Tigges has also been a calming effect on the defensive side of the field, after switching from his normal midfield position.
Tigges, who is also the kicker for the Laker football team, said the defense was able to settle into a good rhythm after Payne's scoring spree.
"It really flustered Crookston's attack," Tigges said. "The defense talked well on the field. We were pretty confident coming in, since we didn't allow Crookston to score against us in the two games this season."
Senior Ethan VanOffelen saved three, while seeing four shots on goal by the Pirates.
The Pirates (3-12-1) were able to break that scoreless streak late in the second half, but the game was already well in hand for the Lakers, up 5-0.
Next up is No. 2 Hillcrest in St. Cloud at Whitney Field Saturday.
The Comets (10-2-2) have beaten the Lakers twice this season by the scores of 6-1 and 3-1, the latter coming in the season finale.
A couple of defensive mistakes in the 3-1 loss, resulted in two goals for the Comets, so defense will need to be tight and ready to go.
"Our biggest need is we need to play tight and control their attack," Wegleitner said. "We need to eliminate our defensive mistakes. It would be nice to get up on them early, so maybe we could get them in a spot where they are forcing things.
"But they are a very dangerous team and they can score."