A hold-up player who controls the ball and sometimes the game with her feet, junior midfielder Emma Fournier proved in Maple Grove's 2-1 victory over Centennial on Thursday in the Class 2A girls' soccer final that good things can happen even when she doesn't control the ball.
Fournier assisted on the first half's only goal after she lost both sight and control of the ball, but teammate Kelly Kloncz didn't. Fournier then scored the eventual winner a minute after halftime when she did what she does by possessing the ball, spinning and launching a 25-yard strike with her off foot.
The goal helped Maple Grove win its first state soccer title in its third consecutive visit to U.S. Bank Stadium and the state semifinals.
Her Crimson held on against a rival, Centennial, that maybe needed another five minutes after Khyah Harper, its star, scored a 67th minute goal.
"That's usually how I like to play, get the ball and try to control it technically," Fournier said. "I like to take people down the side and cross it, but I also love being able to cut it in, get a great ball from a teammate and get a shot."
Do many of those shots come on deft, long strikes with the right-footed Fournier's left foot?
"Enough that she doesn't get yelled at," Crimson coach Ben LeVahn said. "It's usually a quality shot worth taking."
Fournier created the game's first goal in the 17th minute after she tried to flick the ball to Kloncz, but lofted it too high and lost sight of it.
"It was intended to be," Fournier said, "but it just went a little higher than I meant."
Kloncz saw it and scored low and left into the goal.
"I'm not even sure what happened in the moment," Kloncz said. "I just remember people yelling at me to run, so I just ran and things ended up OK."
Unseeded Maple Grove beat fourth-seeded Minnetonka, top-seeded Champlin Park and second-seeded Centennial from the quarterfinals onward. Until this season, Northwest Suburban teams Maple Grove, Champlin Park and Centennial all were in the same section.
"Three teams in the final four were from our conference," Cougars coach Ginger Flohaug said. "I'm proud a team from the Northwest won it. I wanted it to be us. I'm still glad the Northwest showed how strong we can be."
One of those three Northwest Suburban teams sported winners' medals afterward.
"It doesn't feel real because you just don't expect it," Fournier said. "When you look back and see how talented our team is and how hard we work, we deserved to get here. It's just amazing."