Ladies headed to the Big Dance

Sonja Karp

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Reporter


Head coach Bryce Hoffman’s team finished up their regular season last week with three conference matchups. Though it wasn’t a given, all felt confident they would be playing in the state tournament, however there was a slight chance it might slip through their fingers.

In order to guarantee a state berth, the Lady Dogies needed to win one of the three contests, and if they won all three they would be able to improve their seeding from fourth to third.

The squad started off the week finally making up their twice postponed game with the Buffalo Lady Bison. After losing to the Johnson County team last Friday 1-3, Hoffman was hoping that adjustments his team had made would turn the tables the second time around.

Unfortunately, that was not to be.

“We had a bit of a slow start,” Hoffman began. “There was a very strong wind we were defending against in the first half, and because of that I was expecting to spend a lot of time on defense, and then have that situation reversed in the second. That ended up being the case, but we just struggled to score.”

Buffalo had the Lady Dogies on their heels for the first 10 minutes of the contest, however after that, Newcastle was able to settle in and go on the attack a bit more. Defensively, Hoffman’s team was also on point despite the pressure they were under.

“For as much as they had the ball in our half of the field in the first half, I was really impressed with our girls,” Hoffman declared. “They only got four shots on goal, so we played very good defense in the defending third of the field.”

The Lady Bison were able to sneak two past the defense and into the back of the net before the mid-game break, and those would be the only two goals scored on the day. Conditions worsened as the game went on. In the second half, the Lady Dogies put a lot of pressure on Buffalo, and got off several shots, but their opponent’s defense was able to ward them off.

“We played smarter than we did last Friday in terms of our attack. We made their sweeper uncomfortable and we did things right, we just couldn’t score a goal,” Hoffman nodded. “I left that game feeling much better than I had on Friday knowing that we were more efficient with our play.”

On Friday, the Torrington Lady Trailblazers came to town hoping to even the score after losing to Newcastle 0-7 in their previous matchup. The Lady Dogies were having none of it, however.

“We started out a lot like it did when we played there, jumping on them right away by scoring in the fifth minute,” Hoffman smiled.” It’s great to get on the board early in the game to gain that confidence and momentum, and then we kept cruising along, scoring again in the 15th minute.”

Lara Lopez was on fire to start the contest and her teammates, sensing that, got her the ball early and often. Lopez’s first goal resulted from Alaina Laurence sending her a pass which she ran on to, took a few touches, and then finished past the keeper.

Lopez was the go-to gal for the second goal as well. This time Isabel Frank slipped a through ball to her at about the half. The pass split the Torrington defenders, then Lopez ran diagonally up on it and finished in the back of the net again.

“We were able to find and exploit a gap early on, and we were connecting really well against them defensively,” Hoffman grinned. “We had a lot of opportunities and the shots we had on goal were pretty staggering. It was a pretty physical game as usual, but we got out of it healthy so I was happy about that.”

In the second half, the Lady Dogies once again had a plethora of opportunities but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Finally, in the 78th minute of the contest, they were able to put one more in to seal the 3-0 victory. Kelsey Bennett was fouled in the box, so Laurence stepped up and put in the penalty kick which was the icing on the cake.

“It wasn’t the 7-0 win we had before, but we definitely had the opportunities for it to be so,” Hoffman stated. “We still dominated play and pushed the pace. Angel [Perez] only had three saves on the day, so our defense did a great job of keeping any threats at bay.”

The victory guaranteed that Newcastle would advance to the State tournament as the fourth seed from the east. After being defeated by the Bison on Tuesday, there was no possibility for the Lady Dogies to move up any further in the seeding, so Hoffman altered his focus for the Saturday contest against Rawlins.

“We couldn’t move up or down in the standings at that point so my first thought
when I woke up on Saturday was that we get through the
day healthy,” Hoffman admitted. “Unfortunately, it was an intense, physical battle from which neither team escaped unscathed.”

Before half time, Caitlyn Pehringer and Hailey Wehri were sitting on the bench with injuries that sidelined them for the day, Emily Beastrom was put out in the second half as was Perez who collided with a Lady Outlaw. Rawlins also lost their goalie and one of their better forwards due to injury during the contest.

“For the whole game, I felt like we were just trying to manage injuries and were moving people around,” Hoffman frowned. “The game was very evenly matched as our shots on goal were about identical. We had good looks at the goal but their goalie made some nice saves.”

Rawlins was able to score their one goal in the first half when they broke down the Lady Dogie defense a little bit to sneak by and put one in the back of the net. Other than that, the contest was a battle between two evenly matched squads.

“So far this year, we beat Rawlins in the excessively long shootout, and then they beat us twice 1-0,” Hoffman explained. “From a match-up standpoint, I think we’re pretty equal as teams.”

Hopefully, none of the injuries sustained in the game for either team will keep any players out of the state tournament which begins on Thursday. The Lady Dogies will kick off their quest for the title by taking on the Cody Fillies at 2 p.m. in their opening game in Jackson on Thursday afternoon.


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