Wolverine girls take two of first three
Written by: Joel Priest
So far, so good says new BHS head girls’ soccer coach Jen Zelinski.
Taking the reins from Karen Dibble, and tinkering with the talent of her inherited personnel—virtually the same squad as in 2006—the Lady Wolverines improved to 2-1 (1-1 3A Southwestern League) with a 4-1 road win over rivals Ignacio (1-1 overall, 1-1 SWL) Tuesday.
“I thought they were awesome,” Zelinski said. “They were very aggressive, winning the ball out of the air—it’s a drastic improvement from the first game.”
But don’t underestimate the impact of that thrilling, contact-heavy match either.
Hosting the Ridgway Lady Demons last Friday, a team that shocked them twice last year, sophomore Lindsey Lind—facing the team against whom she made her first varsity impact—set the tone for 2007 in the 87th minute, taking a Danielle Bemelen corner kick and volleying it off the underside of the crossbar and across the goal line for the overtime victory.
RHS striker Willa Johnson had knotted the score at 1-1 way back in the 44th.
And even in defeat—a loss to the 4A Montezuma-Cortez varsity sandwiched between the victories—BHS showed definite strides of the program’s progress. For while the previous two meetings resulted in 10-0 rule-shortened affairs, the first of two scheduled matches in 2007 ended in a 6-nil Lady Panther win, but they had to go the distance to make it official.
“We’re moving along very nicely,” Zelinski said. “Going in, I didn’t know what the season looked like, I didn’t know what any of the other teams looked like. We’re just here to win games, play soccer, and I’m just trying to get these girls ready to play and have fun. And they’re doing it.”
Leading by example, Bemelen drew first blood against both RHS and IHS, and did it early in both contests, scoring six minutes in against the Lady Demons and 15 minutes in against the Lady Bobcats. And in between, as expected, drew multiple M-CHS defenders on every touch, as head coach Mark Myer clearly knew to contain Bayfield’s top gun.
So did Ridgway’s Chuck Siefken and Ignacio’s Jenn Bartlett, forcing additional Bayfield players to step up and produce—which they did, most noticeably on Tuesday.
After junior goalie Savannah Pearson stopped Bemelen on a penalty kick in the 44th minute, the Lady Wolverines were able to keep the ball on IHS’ side of the field, and earned an indirect kick in the 46th. Bemelen took it, and lofted the ball high over ‘the wall’ to the back post, right to a waiting Raven Finegan. Directing the ball into the net off her collarbone area just under her chin, it would stand as the match-winner.
“It’s the first goal I’ve ever got,” said the excited sophomore, “and I just crashed the goal like the coaches told me and it worked out!”
Ignacio junior Courtney Webb had previously answered Bemelen’s early strike with a successful PK of her own in the 38th, evening the score at 1-all, but after Finegan found the net the true hallmark of the Lady Wolverines solidified to stymie IHS the rest of the way.
That would be the defensive unit, led by the non-stop running of Lind, and the wheels of fellow soph Megan Lane—primarily an attacker last season—and returning fullback Lizzy Thorne. And of course, returning goalkeeper Amber Howlett—who entered the IHS match as Colorado’s top-ranked goalie in total saves. The quartet essentially shut down what had been a promising Ignacio offense, as Howlett was drawn into making just one save in the entire second half.
“She’s doing a great job,” Zelinski said of the sophomore, named Honorable Mention All-League last year. “She’s talking to the girls, making big saves, doing what we need her to do.”
“You have to be ready for anything,” Howlett said, “and I think this was a good win for us.”
Meanwhile, after Finegan was yellow-carded in the 59th for running into Pearson, two more of BHS’ key returnees took charge and put the game on ice. Junior Megan Cole intercepted a slow pass just outside the IHS 18 and gave Bayfield a 3-1 lead in the 72nd minute, and senior Katye Mead—an essential defender last season—took a feed from junior Kyla Mahan and scored at the back post in the 80th, as stoppage time commenced.
“I think we definitely have a lot going for us this season,” said Finegan, “and we’ll bring it.”
They’ll have to today, as they travel to face league power Pagosa Springs at 4 p.m.