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Tuesday's Class 4A playoff opener between Murray and East could best be described as a goal-scoring machine taking on a stone wall in the defensive third. But playoff soccer proved to be as unpredictable as ever as East tied its season high for goals scored in a 4-1 road win over Murray.
The visiting Leopards, who have had trouble this season scoring consistently, got off to a hot start in the first half with two goals scored by sophomore Emily Jensen. A headed goal off of a free kick followed by a clipped-in shot after some fancy movement inside the Murray 18-yard box gave East the halftime lead on the road.
"We were lucky because we found some holes in the defense where we could take some shots," Jensen said. "It was really nice to have that lead at the half. We had some late training last week where we focused on offense and I think that really showed today, and we showed them that we can play offense too."
Facing a two-goal deficit on its home field, Murray came out for the second half with urgency. The Spartans scored in the 55th minute when junior forward Macy Martinez scored her team-leading 22nd goal of the season to get her team within 2-1.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, the comeback was short-lived as East regained its two-goal advantage five minutes later with a goal from senior forward Emma Earl.
From then on, it was a defensive showcase from the Leopards as the Murray attack was continually rebuffed by East.
Senior defender and captain Emma Workman said the best trait of a defensive unit is being able to adapt to different styles of attack and change the defense accordingly, and that's what the Leopards did to keep Murray scrambling.
"As a defensive group, we are really strong and we are really good at communicating and seeing what we need to change," Workman said. "If [Murray] were trying to attack us in one place, we were able to make the shift in order to change that and make it work so that we could counter off of that."
The defense continued to lead to more offense for East as freshman midfielder Erin Bridges put the game away with a goal in the 75th minute.
East coach Rudy Schenk said Tuesday was his team's most complete performance of the season.
"We've had some struggles scoring this season," Schenk said. "For whatever reason, the goals just weren't coming. But today we pulled it off, it was the most complete game that we've played yet and we saved it for the playoffs."
Putting together thebest overall performance of the season is crucial to success in the playoffs, but Schenk knows he'll need even more if the Leopards want to advance past this weekend's second round.
"I've been trying to keep them hungry," Schenk said. "We didn't accomplish one of our goals, which was to win our region, but we still have the opportunity to accomplish another goal, which is to do some damage in the state tournament."
R East ties a season high in goals scored in a 4-1 win over Murray.
• East's defense has allowed only 13 goals in 17 games, including Tuesday's playoff game.
• East joins Skyline and Corner Canyon as the only teams to hold Murray to one goal or less.
Tuesday's 4A scores
• Timpview 2, Maple Mountain 1
• Bonneville 5, Hillcrest 0
• Skyline 3, Highland 0
• Spanish Fork 2, Corner Canyon 1
• Woods Cross 3, Olympus 1
• Alta 2, Salem Hills 1
• Skyridge 2, Springville 1
• East 4, Murray 1 Quarterfinals Thursday, 4 p.m.
• Timpview at Bonneville
• Spanish Fork at Skyline
• Woods Cross at Alta
• Skyridge at East