CROWN POINT — Crown Point senior goalkeeper Grace Lynch will admit it.
She got a little help from the metal posts behind her Tuesday night.
But she and the rest of the Bulldogs' defense took care of the rest.
Lynch registered six saves and was the benefactor of three shots off the post to help lead the Times No. 1 Bulldogs to a dominant 4-1 Duneland Athletic Conference victory over No. 2 Lake Central on Tuesday.
“I think (Tuesday) showed us how much our defense can do for us,” Lynch said. “I’m very grateful for the strong defense that I have in front of me. Whenever there’s any rebounds or anything like that, there’s always somebody there to clean it up. We’ve got a strong group, and I think we’ll need that all season.”
The ‘Dogs certainly needed it on opening night to fight off a barrage of Lake Central attacks.
By Indians coach Shawn Thomas’s count, his team sent 17 shots on target only to see junior Stephanie Dijak’s long-distance strike go in after Crown Point already built a three-goal lead.
Crown Point senior forward Haneen Abdulla broke a scoreless tie late in the first half with a 36th-minute score off a corner kick. Leading up to that score, Abdulla sent one shot off the crossbar and then couldn’t finish on her rebound try before earning the corner.
Junior midfielder Emmie McConnell registered her first of two assists on the corner-kick goal that proved to give the ‘Dogs some much-needed momentum in a back-and-forth game.
Lake Central was a few inches away from tying the game just more than a minute later only to fall victim to one of a few poor breaks on the evening. After earning a penalty kick, LC senior standout Adrianna Naumoski sent her PK try off the crossbar.
It was that kind of game for the Indians.
“We learned we’ve got to work on our finishing,” Thomas said. “We did a nice job of creating chances but those opportunities are only good if you can get them in.”
After what Crown Point coach Chris Mikrut described as a “jittery” first half, the Bulldog offense found its footing in the second half while Lake Central was forced to play numbers up the field.
The ‘Dogs built a 3-0 lead with scores from Abdulla, junior midfielder Olivia Small and senior midfielder Payton Grady.
Dijak’s score briefly brought the Indians back to life with 14 minutes remaining before Bulldog junior Maddy Donofrio iced the game with a goal of her own three minutes later.
The balance of Crown Point’s offense was particularly pleasing against such a strong opponent early in the season, Mikrut said. The first two goals came courtesy of set pieces before the latter two were a direct result of getting the ball up the field on the wings and letting the players up top do the rest of the work.
“I think the second half showed more of what we are, but I’m happy with where we’re at,” he said. “For that being our first game, I thought we were pretty good, and we’re only going to continue to get better from here.”