The Benton Cardinals girl’s soccer team sent its veterans out in style on Friday’s senior night, dominating Lafayette from the opening whistle.

The Cardinals enjoyed an 7-0 victory over their MEC rival Lafayette. It was clear from the beginning that Benton (9-4) was in full control of the Fighting Irish (4-12). Just two minutes into the game, senior middle Jayde Williams guided the ball into the net to give her team the early lead.

Freshman goalkeeper Jaida Cox didn’t have many chances at saves, but when she did, she made them count going five for five on save opportunities. Benton coach Ray Brown believes his defense’s elite play is the reason the Cardinals’ offense controlled the ball more than Lafayette.

“We practice these kids like they’re all offensive players,” Brown said. “Our defense controls the ball and they always send it up to our offense, which our defense is what starts our offense. Anybody who tells you differently, they’re wrong. The defense is what starts your offense.”

For the Cardinals’ offense, it was senior Melanie Murphy who provided the firepower. The senior Cardinal celebrated senior night in explosive style, as she scored three goals on night.

“I was feeling proud,” Murphy said. “It’s just such an honor to play with the girls I play with, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Doing this on my senior night makes me feel proud of my team and myself.”

The Cardinals didn’t let up after scoring minutes into the game. Just after Williams set the bar, Murphy set it even higher.

Murphy scored in the seventh, 25th and 55th minute of the game crediting the Cardinals speed and technique as they jumped out to a hot start and her eventual hat trick.

“We tried to hit the runs and switch the fields,” Murphy said. “We’re all pretty fast, and speed helps.”

While Murphy stood out on senior night, Brown is confident in not just her but her entire team’s ability to persevere.

“Mel plays tough for us all the time,” Brown said. “She’s there when they give her the sends. She just works hard just like the rest of them. I can’t take any credit away from any of those girls over there, because they work hard for us.”

As for Brown’s seniors, they all hold a place in his heart.

“I love them like they’re my family, because they are my family,” Brown said.

Benton, the No. 3 seed, takes on No. 2 Savannah (10-6) in the first round of the Class 2 District 16 tournament this Monday at 4 p.m. in Maryville. Lafayette earned the No. 4 seed and will play No. 1 seed at 6 p.m.

Derek Zimmerman-Guyer can be reached