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Girls split on opening weekend

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Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

The Lady Dogies kicked off their soccer season at the Pinnacle Cup tournament in Worland Friday and Saturday. Though they started a little slow with losses in their first two contests, head coach Cami Willyard was pleased to see her team finish strong with two wins to close things out.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how we did over the weekend,” Willyard said. “And it wasn’t just that we got two wins, but by how we continually improved each half of each game, which is our goal this year.”

The first game of the season for the Lady Dogies had them taking on a challenging Green River team that fields an extremely talented sophomore player who was just too much for Willyard’s crew.

“She is legit,” Willyard said. “She is amazing to watch and is one of the top goal scorers in the state — and she took it to us a little bit.”

The Wolves were able to score four goals against the Lady Dogies in the first half, and then three more in the second frame of play. Of those seven goals, the sophomore scored six, and she assisted on the one goal she didn’t knock in.

“We tried what we could to slow her down,” Willyard said. “We started man-marking her after her first shot on goal, but it didn’t seem to do much. We were able to hold them scoreless for the first 15 minutes of the second half, though, so that was good.”

Newcastle was able to create some scoring opportunities for themselves, but just weren’t able to convert on those.

“Hailey [Beastrom] had three shots on goal, and a few others were testing and getting through their back line, but didn’t quite get a shot off on frame,” Willyard said. “So really, it wasn’t as bad as the 0-7 score indicates.”

Freshman Christine Swentesky started her varsity career off as goalkeeper with a baptism by fire in this contest. Despite missing on seven shots, she was able to make nine saves against what will probably be the best player she will see on the pitch this season.

“Christine got to show off her keeper skills this weekend, which is really fun to watch,” Willyard said. “She is quick, she anticipates, and she is not afraid to sacrifice her body.”

Saturday was a full day for the Lady Dogies, with three games on the schedule. First up were the fourth-ranked Lady Bearcats of Douglas, who Willyard described as a very sound team with a variety of scoring potential.

Despite dropping the contest 4-0, the Lady Dogies once again showed marked improvement from the first half of play to the second.

“They had 11 shots on goal and two scores in the first half, but then only got six shots on goal and two scores in the second,” Willyard explained. “I was impressed with our defense and our back line of Emi [Lichtenberger], Sage [Lichtenberger] and Kathryn [Huber], along with Ruth [Rose] and Hailey [Beastrom] who dropped back to help, really did a great job.”

As keeper, Swentesky ended this contest with 13 saves in the goal.

“Not only did she have those 13 saves, but she really had more than that,” Willyard said. “When they would try to send a cross pass, she would come out and snag the ball, which kept them from even being able to attempt a shot.”

Game two of the day was against the Torrington Lady Trailblazers, who, like Douglas, are a conference team Newcastle will meet again later in the season. Willyard admitted being a little concerned as her team started the contest a little slow, with neither team getting a single shot on goal in the first half.

Willyard pulled Swentesky out of the goal in the second half to take advantage of her fresh legs. The freshman added a spark to the Lady Dogies, which they used to get six shots off, and finished on three of those — two by Beastrom and one by Scottlyn Hildebrandt.

Beastrom scored the first goal of the game off a corner kick, Hildebrandt scored the next goal, and in the final minute of the contest, Beastrom scored on a beautiful free kick to the top right corner.

“It was great to get a win over Torrington,” Willyard said. “And it was great to get our first win of the season!”

In their third, and final game of the day, the Lady Dogies were up against Pinedale.

“We were tired for this game, and rightly so,” Willyard said. “Once again, there were no shots on goal by either team in the first half, but once again, we got better in the second half.”

Swentesky came out of the goal in the second half and reignited the Lady Dogies. Kendra Merchen used that spark to punch in the first goal of the contest, and the first of her varsity career, to put Newcastle on the board.

“It was pretty cool to see Kendra score,” Willyard said. “Though she is a senior, this is her first year playing soccer, so to see her picking up the game so quickly is awesome.”

In her time on the pitch, Swentesky also got her first goal of the season, and her varsity career,  to extend the Lady Dogies’ lead to 2-0, which they would hold as time expired.

“I was so glad to see the girls step up their offensive game in the second half, but I can’t say enough about our defense,” Willyard said. “They were unbreakable and allowed no shots on goal through the whole game.”

This week, the Lady Dogies are open and will get back into action on Tuesday as they head to Gering, Nebraska, for a contest there. Then they will host the Lady Warriors of Worland in their home opener on Saturday, April 6.

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