Blue Jays remained unbeaten through 6 games before 1st lossThe Jamestown High School girls’ soccer team looks to be in top form in the first month of the season — winning. It took seven games before the Blue Jays had to experience the bitter taste of defeat, but now with the undefeated pressure out of the way Jamestown can get back to what it was doing in the first three weeks of the season.
The Jamestown High School girls’ soccer team looks to be in top form in the first month of the season — winning.
It took seven games before the Blue Jays had to experience the bitter taste of defeat, but now with the undefeated pressure out of the way Jamestown can get back to what it was doing in the first three weeks of the season.
“I’m very happy with how they’ve started,” said Jays coach Donovan Gibson. “We’re kind of in a little bit of a funk right now, but I know the girls will work their way out of it. I know every team is going to go through a little something like this and I know I have a group of girls that can handle it.”
The Blue Jays (4-1-2) aren’t even halfway through their schedule and are already closing in on last year’s wins total (7), which included a runner-up finish at the state tournament.
“I’ve seen a lot of improvement in terms of the girls really reading and thinking the game of soccer,” said Gibson, who is in his first year of his second stint as a Jamestown coach. “When we started, I think a lot of it was that they kind of pigeon-holed themselves as, ‘I’m a defender or I’m a midfielder or I’m a striker.’ We’re trying to convince them to be soccer players. Not just understand how to defend, but also how to attack. We’re trying to make them all-around players so they can be part of the attack as well as defending.”
The Jays looked to have made some strides in the early stages, especially in the striking department, totaling for 19 goals in the first seven games of the season. But it has been a player on the other side of the field that has emerged as the Blue Jays’ diamond in the rough.
Goalkeeper Jade Lind has only allowed four goals so far, while stopping 31 shots. An impressive stat on its own, but according to Gibson this is her first year between the pipes.
“She’s really been a blessing in the sense that this is the first time she’s played the position,” Gibson said. “She’s obviously very athletic and has come up big for us.”
The sophomore has recorded three shutouts this season and was just eight seconds away from her fourth but Bismarck Century’s Annie Cramer scored with eight seconds left in Tuesday’s contest to lift the Patriots to a 1-0 victory, Jamestown’s one and only loss on the season so far.
“With me not really knowing the girls ahead of time, it was pretty much a trial process from the beginning,” Gibson said of the goalkeeper search. “Those who wanted to try goalkeeper, tried it. Jade just stood out right away in terms of athleticism and how quick she would respond to the instruction of goalkeeping. From that point on she’s just been steady.”
The offense, which has been led by senior Kaitlin Walsh and junior Jenae Dabill, has been almost unstoppable this season. Walsh and Dabill each have a team-high six goals apiece, while Amber Hillesland has found the back of the net three times and Miah Dabill twice. But the last few outings have been somewhat of a phenomenon as the Jays have been held scoreless the last two games.
“We came out of the gate hard, fast and strong. We were scoring goals, our possession-play was good, our combinations were quick, our striking was quick,” said Gibson. “I think we’re kind of in a situation now where we’ve done some things that have worked for us and we need to start to evolve to become a more diverse team, especially in the attack.”
It makes things a little easier to create that diverse team, especially when you have two college-bound soccer players amongst your roster. Both Jenae Dabill and Walsh are committed to play college soccer — Walsh attending the University of Mary and Jenae Dabill will be heading to North Dakota State University — so the team has the talent and the leadership to make a few adjustments as they near the midway point of the season.
“They’re hardworking and they lead by example,” said Gibson of Jenae Dabill and Walsh. “They encourage the girls and it has been great to have them.”
Gibson also acknowledged Brooke Winson’s presence and talent on the field, referring to her as the “unsung hero” of the team.
“She’s kind of the big sister on the playground, always watching out for everyone else and making sure nobody gets picked on,” Gibson said. “She does a lot of the dirty work for us in terms of collecting the ball outside and getting it to Kaitlin and Jenae.”
Winson leads the team with three assists followed by Miah Dabill and Walsh, who have two apiece.
Jamestown will have to battle back from a loss for the first time this season and it won’t be an easy task. The Blue Jays will host the East/West Crossover today and Saturday and will open today at 3:30 p.m. against Fargo Shanley — last year’s third-place finisher at the state tournament. The Jays will then continue play at 6:30 p.m. against West Fargo.
“Possession is one thing that we really need to work on,” said Gibson. “The girls not only need confidence in themselves but also in each other. If they are able to give a pass, they have to make sure that person is able to receive it so they can do something with it. It’s just a matter of getting our girls to focus on the demand of the game.”
If the Blue Jays can make the correct adjustments and get back to early-season form, they will be well on their way to making a push at another state tournament championship appearance. But this year there might even be a little more fire with the state tournament being held in Jamestown.
“It’s a rare opportunity and we want to be part of that,” Gibson said. “It’s not going to be easy for us because there are some great teams in the West (Region). ... It’s going to be a battle to the bitter end to see who qualifies for state.”
Sun sports writer David Griswold can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org