By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
FAUCETT - Mid-Buchanan reached the district title game in its first year as a program in 2021. Impressive enough.
Bishop LeBlond last year denied the Dragons' girls soccer team a district title in their first season.
One year later, Mid-Buchanan made the dream a reality. The Dragons (14-6) needed just one first-half goal from sophomore Liv Moeckli and leaned on their defense the rest of the way in a 1-0 victory over the Golden Eagles at Mid-Buchanan High School in the Class 1 District 8 championship Thursday.
Second year as a team, and the first ever district title. It bears repeating.
"I could not imagine a group of girls who deserve it more," Mid-Buchanan coach Danielle Beers said. "So, just overjoyed for them."
Mid-Buchanan had the wind to its back in the first half, but it was Bishop LeBlond that earned a couple of early shots-on-goal in the first 10 minutes, including an early corner kick from junior Emma Raines.
After a mandatory water break at the 20-minute mark of the first half, Mid-Buchanan began to turn the tide and use that wind to their advantage.
The Dragons earned their first corner kick opportunity with just over 16 minutes left before halftime, and Moeckli floated the kick high in the air and used the wind to perfection to sneak the ball over LeBlond keeper Maddie Sego to put the Dragons ahead 1-0 with 16:03 left in the first half.
"There's just so much team chemistry," Moeckli said. "Our coaches believe in us every single bit and that's what got us here. We all worked so hard and we may not have all of the skills, but we have heart and that's how we finished this game."
The Dragons would have a few more good looks, finishing the first half with six shots-on-goal, but the Eagles limited the damage. LeBlond (13-7) had the wind to their back in the second half and immediately got a number of threats going.
In fact, the Eagles managed four shots-on-goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but junior keeper Mallie Lieffring stood firm and saved every one of them. She finished with eight saves total.
"She owned that box," Beers said of her keeper. "We've been trying to get her to do it all year and she really looked like she was comfortable and that it was her box and nothing was coming in and that's what we want from her. We want her to be that big person back there to take charge and she did an excellent job of that today."
Mid-Buchanan had just one shot-on-goal in the second half. They had a couple of chances to get a late insurance goal, but those chances either sailed wide right or over the crossbar.
LeBlond scrambled and did all they could to keep the ball in Mid-Buchanan's box in the closing minutes, but time and again, Lieffring and the Dragon defense stood tall and kept the Eagles off the board.
"It's just crazy," Lieffring said. "I didn't really...well, I mean, I thought it was possible, but you don't really think you can do it until you actually do it. So, it was really great. A really great feeling."
This win is a big one for Mid-Buchanan. Yes, any district championship win is significant. But, the first in history is extra sweet. Not to mention it came against Bishop LeBlond - a team that had beaten the Dragons in all three previous meetings, including 6-2 in last year's district championship and 3-2 in St. Joseph just 16 days prior.
"They were in the right mind space to come out and take care of business," Beers noted. "It kind of gives you that feeling of, 'Okay. Here we go. We got this.' Which I think is a little different than last year. As a first-year program, I think we were a little intimidated."
Mid-Buchanan will have a little more than a week to prepare for their next game in the state quarterfinal round. The Dragons will host Barstow on May 28 at a time to be determined.
Hosting girls' state soccer quarterfinals - check off another first for this Mid-Buchanan program.
"Oh gosh, it's amazing," Beers said. "I'm just so excited for the program, because they're inspiring so many young girls. You know, that was the goal to start the program here. To just bring soccer to a community that hasn't had it yet. It's happening and it's awesome."
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