Bayleigh Crawford had a lot to live up to. She took over in goal this season for Sam Smith, Chippewa Falls’ graduated stalwart goalkeeper whose resume included first-team All-Big Rivers and Leader-Telegram All-Area honors.
But the sophomore has been up to the task in her first season as the Cardinals’ No. 1 keeper. She’s been thrown right into the fire and has responded with six shutouts.
“At this point, I haven’t seen a better goalkeeper in conference yet,” Chippewa Falls coach Justin Engum said.
Crawford emerged as the starter after a tough battle with junior Hattie Madsen — who Engum also is quite high on — during preseason tryouts. She’s faced her share of shots behind a new-look defense that got a facelift midway through the season when Engum moved junior central defender Grace Roseen up top to forward to generate more offense.
In Thursday’s 3-0 loss to conference leader Eau Claire Memorial, Crawford made more than one nice save in the first half to keep Chippewa Falls within striking distance.
“She impressed us in tryouts and beat out some stiff competition in tryouts,” Engum said. “Our backup probably would be the best we’ve seen in conference as well.”
Crawford still has plenty of time to improve, as do the Cardinals as a whole. The starting 11 on Thursday against Memorial comprised one freshman, three sophomores, five juniors and only two seniors. Chippewa Falls is still young and only figures to get better.
“Bayleigh in general, her reaction is good,” Engum said. “Everything we teach her, she puts together.”
NOTES: Memorial remained at No. 6 in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association Division 1 state poll released Monday. ... Kate Klauck scored her first two goals of the season Thursday to give North a 2-0 win over Menomonie. ... The season’s second city game takes place Thursday at Memorial. The Huskies’ last victory in the series came back on May 14, 2009, a 2-0 win fueled by goals from Sam Price and Lindsey Gorrell.