CHAMPION - According to LaBrae's Laura Hall, some ties feel like wins, while others feel like losses. Wednesday night felt like a win for the LaBrae Vikings.
The senior captain earned her first positive result against All-American Conference, National Division rival Champion in a 0-0 tie. In every match against the Golden Flashes prior to this one, Hall and LaBrae lost.
"This is my last time I might get to play Champion," Hall said. "Not losing was pretty great. Being able to go out with a tie and being able to keep our heads high was good."
Even Champion coach Dan Houle noticed that game meant a lot to the Vikings (8-3-1, 5-2-1 AAC National), and it showed from the beginning.
The Vikings forced the Golden Flashes (8-3-2, 6-0-2) out of their game. Instead of using through balls to get their forwards on goal, the Golden Flashes tried the long ball approach, booting balls over the Vikings defense in hopes of getting chances.
It didn't work, with the ball normally going harmlessly to goalkeeper Lindsay Jaros.
"I've got to give it to LaBrae," Champion coach Dan Houle said. "They came to play tonight, and they gave a hell of a game. They did everything that they physically could to disrupt what we do. The first 20 minutes of the game belonged to them. They caught us off-guard, and they took it to us.
"I wish we would have played the game more on the grass. We're not an airball team, but they got us doing it (tonight)."
LaBrae's dangerous counterattack also messed with Champion's offensive rhythm.
The Golden Flashes' midfielders couldn't go forward on the attack often, and when they did, the Vikings used their quickness to force Champion's defense into disarray.
LaBrae coach Diane Downey said that the counterattack will be important for the team for the rest of the season.
"What's helped us on that counter is that I have some incoming freshmen that have really came in with a lot of good skill and speed," Downey said. "It's nice to be able to use them, and they understand a good counterattack is what we need to do."
Despite being scoreless, both teams had a few goal-scoring chances, especially in a wide-open second half.
Champion's best chance came during the first half in the 30th minute, when sophomore Courtney Parker's 20-yard shot hit the cross bar, and LaBrae's best chance came in the 47th minute, when sophomore Emily Dugan took advantage of a defensive mistake in the back, only to have her point-blank range shot blocked by Champion goalkeeper Kelly Robinson.
"We had our moments, and they had theirs," Houle said. "I liked the game actually."
Along with Hall's first non-defeat against Champion, this tie against last year's district champions has another morale-boosting effect, as it could propel the Vikings into a deep postseason run.
"Last year, we made it the furthest we ever had," Downey said. "I'd like to see us go further. We do have a team that is very talented, and I keep pushing these girls every day. That's when it really counts - during tournaments."