MUNSTER — Sometimes a team needs to develop its leaders.
Munster sophomore Juli Nelson said the Times No. 6 Mustangs’ leadership is what’s propelled their 3-0-1 record over the last four games, including a 2-0 nonconference victory over No. 3 Valparaiso on Thursday.
“We always try to lift each other up,” Nelson said. “We’re all helping each other out more instead of flying apart when things don’t go our way.”
Nelson’s goal in the 46th minute gave Munster a two-goal lead it would never surrender.
“Defensively, I think my defense just did a good job of reading when it was going to be a long ball,” Munster coach Val Pflum said. “We tried to make sure that our mids stepped up to (Olivia Shaw), because she’s their main distributor. That gave us a chance to adjust accordingly.”
The unquestioned leader of that defense is returning Times Player of the Year Jaycee Helmer. The senior put a quick stop to several Vikings opportunities.
“Jaycee is my Wonder Woman,” Pflum said. “It’s nice to have that safety net.”
Senior Kendal Ziel put the Mustangs (4-3-2) up quickly, grabbing a goal at 1:05 on Nelson’s through pass.
“I saw the ball in front of me, looked up and I saw Kendal making a run and I saw space,” Nelson said. “I just put it back in there and she’s fast enough to run onto it. That was a really big play in the game.”
Munster held its 1-0 lead into the break.
“The girls are playing with some really good intentions. We just need to continue to work as hard as we can and find that final connection and finish things,” Vikings coach Rob Cespedes said. “Luckily, we’re not in tournament now.”
Valparaiso (8-2-1) is ranked No. 11 in Class 3A in the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association Poll. Munster is No. 15.
Valparaiso had perhaps its best chance in the 72nd minute when Olivia Shaw had a free kick from about 25 yards. Munster goalie Grace Helmer got her fingertips on the ball and tipped it over the crossbar.
“The girls came back (after the early goal) and were pretty energetic. It was a back and forth match, particularly in that first half,” Cespedes said. “They were really getting their opportunities and they just couldn’t find the back of the net.”