TRAVERSE CITY — Lauran Pinto has seen just about enough crutches.
Traverse City West — despite playing without four players with ankle and knee injuries — racked up a 5-1 home victory Tuesday over rival Traverse City Central to remain in a virtual Big North Conference first-place tie with Cadillac. The two teams are undefeated in league play and are tied in the tie column.
“That’s why this is really good for us to come out and get this win,” Pinto said. “We’ve been struggling with subs, having players off for cards, girls are being sick, on top of having four girls on crutches.”
One of those four — freshman Chloe Slack — could return later this week. She warmed up with the team Tuesday, but did not play.
Jordan Balhorn, Eva Brunetti and Kari Cannon all watched from the sidelines on crutches. Balhorn and Brunetti have ankle injuries, and Cannon is waiting for swelling to subside in her knee to determine if she has a torn ACL.
Central, which is also dealing with an injury to senior forward Midi Battle (broken collarbone), dropped to 5-9-1, 3-3-1 in BNC play.
“It definitely hurts,” Trojan coach Janna Deering said. “Not only is she a great, skilled player who can play a full 80 minutes and get us some good services for good opportunities, but she’s also a big part of our spirit and passion and the heart of the team.”
Taking a 1-0 lead into halftime on a Jayna Brunetti goal, West (6-1-3, 4-0-2 BNC) erupted for four second-half scores — all in which Maria Rapson played a big part.
Rapson set up Jessica Kalbfleisch’s score in the eighth minute, as Kalbfleisch volleyed in the rebound of Rapson shot.
Kiley Kreple converted a penalty kick after Rapson was taken down in the box midway through the second half, Rapson scored a goal of her own a minute and a half later off a Jayne Brunetti assist and Rapson set up another Kalbfleisch goal to finish off West’s scoring with 9:35 remaining.
“I think the difference was our motivation,” Rapson said. “We really wanted it. It’s been our goal to win the BNC this year, so we really just went all out for it.”
Central prevent the shutout with 28 seconds left on Elena Morcote’s goal set up by Jalyna Cisneros.
West travels to Petoskey on Thursday and Midland on Saturday before a rematch with Central at the Coast Guard field Monday.
“We don’t see anybody in between, so we’ve got some time to sort some things out and fix some of the fundamental mistakes we made that allowed them to really capitalize,” Deering said. “We lost 4-0 here last year, and I said, ‘We’re coming back. This isn’t the end.’ I don’t feel defeated, and I know the girls aren’t. We’re anxious to have another opportunity to prove we’re better than we showed (Tuesday).”
Central won the JV game 2-0 on goals by Greta Groothuis and Julianna Chang. Sierra Fraser and Jennifer Rose had assists and Carrie Wynkoop made eight saves as Central (2-6-1) topped West (7-2-3). Titans goalie Kaylie Camp made four saves.