ELSIE — Junior midfielder Raygan Fluharty is straightforward and no-nonsense in person, and that carries over to her duties taking penalty kicks for the Ovid-Elsie girls soccer team.
“I mostly look to see the side the goalie cheats on, and then I put my head down and drive through (the ball),” she said.
Her style led to two goals on penalty kicks and an assist on a third goal as the Marauders blanked Durand 5-0 on Thursday.
The win lifted the Marauders to 9-3 overall, 8-1 in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference. Durand fell to 8-4, 4-3.
“They’re aggressive,” Durand coach Marc Smith said. “We haven’t played a lot of tough, aggressive teams this season. They handle the ball well, they pass the ball well, and they’re an overall skilled, experienced team.”
As for aggressive teams, Smith said Byron was the only similar team the Railroaders have played, to a similar result: Durand had lost to Byron three times and had beaten everyone else on their schedule until running into Ovid-Elsie.
Josie Nash gave the Marauders the only goal they would need early in the first half after taking a pass from Madison Cunningham.
Nash was fouled late in the first half and Fluharty converted the penalty kick to give the Marauders a 2-0 halftime lead.
Fluharty scored on a another penalty kick early in the second half, then found Nash on a set play off another penalty kick later in the half.
“The keeper was expecting her to drive the ball,” Ovid-Elsie coach Craig Thelen said. “But Raygan hit a through ball to the side of the wall and our striker snuck in there (to score). They were able to connect on a beautiful set play by properly reading and reacting accordingly.”
Kaylee Sutliff finished the scoring late in the game off a pass from Kylee Sevenski.
The Marauders’ defense mostly kept Durand at bay, allowing just two shots early in the game.
“We need to work on our communication on the field,” Smith said. “There was a lot of miscommunication, a lot of leaving holes (in the defense) that should have been covered.”
The Marauders found some faults in their game, as well.
“We can always work on our intensity,” Fluharty said. “We have moments when we’re lackadaisical, so if we can stay intense for the full 80 minutes, it will help, especially when we get to districts.”
“Our conference is very up-and-down,” Thelen said. “We’ve been preaching to the girls to play to their level, not the level of our opponents. That’s what Raygan was referring to. Durand has some really good players, and we were able to keep our intensity up today.”
Thelen, like most coaches, would like his team to be improving even as it wins, but he alluded as to his team’s progress this year.
“Our defense is coming together nicely and our offense has found the back of the net,” he said.
And, on a windy but warm day, that and a win were more than enough for the Marauders.
OVID-ELSIE 5, DURAND 0
Durand 0 0 — 0
Ovid-Elsie 2 3 — 5
OE: Josie Nash (Madison Cunningham).
OE: Raygan Fluharty (penalty kick).
OE: Fluharty (penalty kick).
OE: Nash (Fluharty)
OE: Kaylee Sutliff (Kylee Sevenski)
Shots on Goal: Ovid-Elsie 8, Durand 2.
Goaltending: Ovid-Elsie (Alexis Kusnier, 2 saves on 2 shots).
Records: Ovid-Elsie 9-3 (8-1 MMAC); Durand 8-4 (4-2).