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Dogies are off to a strong start

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Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

The Dogie Soccer team may not have a lot of numbers, but what they don’t lack is talent. Head coach Sally Hoover’s crew proved they have a great deal of potential for a state berth as they kicked off their season going 3-1 at the Pinnacle Cup tournament Friday and Saturday in Worland.

“It was a great way to start the season!” said Hoover. “We had not played a game yet, and we went up against a team who had played several in our first match-up, so it could have been a bit of a mismatch. But, we handled it pretty well overall to get our first win of the season.”

The Dogies did indeed start the weekend off with a win in their first contest on Friday against Pinedale. Though regulation time ended with a 0-0 tie, the Dogies took the win in a do-or-die shootout situation to secure the 3-1 victory.

“We were a little sluggish in the first half as we were trying to figure things out,” Hoover said. “They were also pretty physical and didn’t play great soccer, which was something we had to adjust to. We did look better in the second half and possessed the ball more, so that was good.”

Jacob Abu Zhara put in the first goal of the contest with his penalty kick in overtime. Pinedale also made their first attempt, and then Jacob Powers put the Dogies up 2-1 with his PK. Pinedale bounced their second attempt off the post, while Colter Christensen just missed by also hitting the post on his attempt.

Caden Esposito went next after Pinedale missed their third attempt, and he found the back of the net to give Newcastle the 3-1 lead. Pinedale missed their fourth attempt, giving the win to the Dogies.

In their second contest of the day, the Dogies were tasked with taking on the fourth-ranked Torrington Trailblazers who were coming in with fresh legs as it was their first contest of the weekend. Their speed ended up being too much for the Dogies, so they cruised to a 6-0 win over Newcastle.

After seeing how the ‘Blazers ended the weekend, Hoover predicted that they would move up in the rankings.

The ‘Blazers started fast, scoring their first goal in the first couple of minutes of the game.

“They have a couple of really fast kids and we were tired after playing that first game,” Hoover admitted. “After they scored their first goal, they were able to capture the momentum and they didn’t let it go for the rest of the game.”

Between Torrington’s momentum and the Dogies’ fatigue, the ‘Blazers were able to possess the ball more than Newcastle, however, the Dogies held them to just two goals in the first half of play.

“We kind of settled in and things went better,” Hoover said. “But then they came out in the second half and scored within two minutes, and things went downhill from there.”

The ‘Blazers methodically put in three more goals, one with only 48 seconds remaining to shut the Dogies out.

After a good night’s rest, the Dogies came out firing on all cylinders on Saturday. Their first match-up was against Lyman, who Hoover admitted was a little down this year. However, the Dogies didn’t back down against the Bulldogs and put it to them, defeating them 7-0.

Esposito would get the Dogies on the board with two minutes remaining in the first half when he found the back of the net on an assist from Abu Zhara. With that goal, the Dogies went into the break with the 1-0 lead over Lyman.

“Jacob came off the field at half-time saying we needed to beat them 10-0,” Hoover chuckled. “He took it seriously and scored four goals in the second half!”

Abu Zhara ended the contest with a hat trick plus one as he went 4-8 in shots on goal. Powers also scored a goal in the second half, while Christensen got his first goal of the year off a header from an Abu Zhara assist.

In their final match-up of the tournament, Newcastle was pitted against the No. 3-ranked Powell Panthers for the consolation championship. The Dogies were ready for the Panthers and dominated the contest securing the 4-2 victory and the consolation title.

“We knew that it would be a tough game since it was our fourth in two days,” Hoover said. “But we went out really strong and possessed really well throughout the game. We moved the ball well, we used our drops, our wings, and our crosses, and we really kind of dominated them.”

Abu Zhara scored two of the Dogies’ four goals, Esposito found the back of the net for one goal, and freshman Gabe Hoover scored his first varsity goal of his career to round out the scoring for the Dogies.

“It was probably the best game I’ve ever seen us play for the most part,” Hoover said. “We communicated better than I’ve ever seen us before and we just kept attacking them.”

The Dogies have the week off because of the Easter holiday, but will be back in action next Tuesday as they head to Gering to take on the Nebraska team. Then on Saturday, April 6, they will host the Worland Warriors in their home opener.

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