FARMINGTON – Mercy Berkemeyer shared an important defensive responsibility first and foremost for the Farmington girls soccer team on Friday evening.
While serving primarily as a disruptive factor against North County star Ella Gant, the Knights’ senior co-captain also sparked a pivotal counter attack in the second half.
Emma Collins stayed onside following a Berkemeyer steal and second stretch pass from Sydney Boyer, and scored in the 59th minute as Farmington prevailed 3-1 at home.
Boyer buried a penalty kick in the first half, and Rielle LaCava tapped in a late rebound for insurance. The Knights outshot the Lady Raiders 13-10 overall.
The quick rushes of Farmington (6-4) ultimately won out over the more deliberate approach of spacing and organization of North County (9-4).
Kaitlyn Boeckmann finished with three saves after a relatively calm second half near her cage, and only lost her shutout bid when Gant cashed in a penalty kick with 47 seconds remaining.
That sequence was minor consolation for Gant, who was shown a yellow card for diving despite colliding with Knights sophomore Credence Roberts along the sideline.
During her mandatory brief absence from the field, Farmington extended its 2-0 cushion. LaCava created pressure along the North County back line, forced a panicked pass to the middle and was soon rewarded.
Lady Raiders keeper Paige Clark stopped Collins on a resulting partial breakaway, but LaCava arrived first near the goal line for her third marker of the season with 17:16 remaining.
North County carried a majority of possession before halftime, but trailed 1-0 after Boyer was knocked down near the edge of the box and converted her team-leading ninth goal in the 32nd minute.
Gant nearly created an equalizer just 45 seconds into the second half, but a rolling cross from the left side barely missed connecting with teammate Emma Gaugel in front.
Center back Taylor Branch often collaborated with Berkemeyer to protect Boeckmann from there in a match that featured only two corner kicks for each squad.
The early moments saw North County defender break up a potential threat from LaCava before Knights freshman Keira Hayes impeded an ensuing Gant run while avoiding a whistle.
The teams twice traded excellent scoring chances less than a minute apart while pushing end to end later in the first half.
The initial exchange saw Berkemeyer shoot high for Farmington before North County senior Maddi Oder was denied along the near post by Boeckmann.
The 19th minute included an even more riveting flurry. Clark fought off a rising shot from close range, and the Lady Raiders promptly executed a smooth side-to-side play in response.
Kailee Stephens slid a pass into the middle for the oncoming Gant, who then found Oder with space to operate near the right corner of the box.
Oder, whose strong midfield play earned a number of early sideline throws, rattled a 20-yard shot squarely off the right post. She settled the rebound with three defenders nearby, but fired the next drive just wide.
Collins eventually obtained her eighth goal for the Knights, but redirected a midair kick above the crossbar with about 90 seconds left until halftime.
Farmington was ruled offside five separate times – although North County fans argued for more – and continued to attack with a 3-0 advantage.
Bridget Bone forced a turnover and received a return pass from Roberts, but Clark made her seventh and final save on a drive from about 25 yards.