Spartan fast start too much for Bulldog girls

Spartan fast start too much for Bulldog girls
Butte High's Kandel Kovnesky and Missoula Sentinel's Phoebe Knellhorne battle for possession of the ball Saturday at the Jeremy Bullock Complex. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

Nobody thought the Bulldogs would make it the full 80 minutes.

Despite playing into a stiff wind, Missoula Sentinel jumped out to a 6-0 lead over Butte High in a Western AA soccer match at the Jeremy Bullock Complex Saturday afternoon.

Butte High, though, settled down and took the match the distance in an 8-0 loss to the Spartans. Along the way, Butte High might have picked up a few positives to build on as they head toward the second half of the season.

“We again just kind of got in our own heads and let one little negative thing snowball,” Bulldog coach Steve Shahan said. “It took a while for us to quit spiraling and get our feet back under us.”

The Spartans did not need time to settle in. They went on the attack from the start.

Haley Wolsky registered a first half hat trick as Sentinel jumped up by a half a dozen just 16 minutes into the match. Aidan Ortt added two goals in the first half, and Brooke McKittrick scored one.

“For a while there, I didn’t think we got to half,” Shahan said. “Then we settled in and got our feet.”

In Montana high school soccer, games are called by the mercy rule when a team trails by 10 goals. Butte High’s young-and-improving team made sure that did not come into play on Saturday.

The Spartans did not score again until Shaye Ewing found the back of the net three minutes into the second half. Emily Winters added a rebound goal for the 8-0 margin.

Butte High did several good things over the final 60 minutes of the match.

“We created a few things that looked pretty good,” Shahan said. “At halftime we made a little formation adjustment, and that helped a little bit, too. We’ve still got to work on positioning and our responsibilities. When it gets negative and we get in our own head, we lose track of that.”

One huge bright spot was the play of Kaylee LaPier. The junior relieved classmate Hayla Hoffman and made several nice saves to help the Bulldogs extend the afternoon. Shahan said the Bulldogs have two strong keepers that they can utilize.

“Kaylee came in and played great,” Shahan said. “Kaylee has more experience playing goalie. Hayla has the size. They both bring strengths to that position.”

Butte High’s defense was buoyed by the return of senior Aurora Kemper. She played her first match after suffering a leg injury in the spring.

“Today was her first game. That was exciting,” Shahan said.

Butte High also got contributions from Kali Burke, Taylor Burke, Emma Quist, Jozi Daugherty, Taryn Gilboy, Autumn Silk, Catherine Sholey, Aydin Gonzales, Ellie Quist, Kierra Case, Haylie Williams, Maddy LaPier, Kandel Kovnesky, Kenzie Jaksha and Brooklyn Holms.

Shahan said he liked what he saw from those players after the match settled in. He is hoping to build on that as Butte High begins its second time through the Western AA Tuesday at Missoula Hellgate.

He said that is possible if his team can learn to play pressure free from the start.

“Some of the times you put that pressure on yourself,” Shahan said. “Then when the score is not close, that pressure goes away and good stuff starts to happen. If we could learn not put that pressure on ourselves, I think that’s a good way to improve.”

Butte High’s next home match is Thursday against Missoula Big Sky.

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