Just 10 days ago the Jamestown High School girls soccer team possessed an overall record of 1-7-2.
Four days after that the club's only senior, all-state forward Peyton Rudnick, was awash in tears having played her final match of the regular season at Jamestown's Rotary Field.
Well, dry those eyes, Peyton, the Blue Jays are coming home.
Jamestown High School upset third-seeded Mandan 3-2 in a state-qualifying match of the West Region girls soccer tournament on Thursday, May 23, at Mandan's Dacotah Centennial Park. The Blue Jays are locked into the program's 15th state tournament and first since placing sixth in 2017, and will play the East Region's No. 1 team at noon in the opening state quarterfinal next Thursday at Rotary Field.
"The biggest thing is we're finding other ways to score by not just using Peyton," said Blue Jays coach Brandi Harty. "These girls, their attack is so fast and it catches teams off guard. And, in (Thursday's) game that's exactly what we did in the first five minutes of the game."
The Jays flung a haymaker at the Braves out of the gate, finding the back of the net twice in the opening five minutes. Freshman forward Haley Nelson broke the seal, with an assist from Rudnick, while Rudnick tallied two minutes later unassisted.
Jamestown led 3-1 at the half after JHS junior midfielder Ashlyn Schauer broke through with her first goal of the season. Mandan's Kylie Osborn was able to get the Braves to within a goal at 3-2 in the 41st minute, but following the quick strike after the break the Jays held firm for the remainder of the second half.
Rudnick, Nelson and eighth grader Breanna Oettle have gelled offensively for the Blue Jays late in the season. It's led to 13 JHS goals in the last five matches, after the team struck for only 14 goals over the first 10 matches of 2019.
"We're doing a better job possessing the ball, but I think a big part of it is our three forwards that are working together (Rudnick, Nelson and Oettle) know now where to place the ball for each other," Harty said. "They're playing more diagonal ball and their touch is better. It's towards goal, not away from goal.
"Haley Nelson right now has really stepped up her game. Breanna doesn't necessarily stand out, but the thing she does to keep the attack going is what helps us."
Junior goalkeeper Meredith Walker posted six saves for Jamestown.
The Blue Jays entered Thursday as the West's sixth seed, slipping past Bismarck Legacy 2-1 on Tuesday to qualify for the play-in date with Mandan. Jamestown (5-8-2) has closed 2019 in a flurry, having now won four of its last five matches by defeating both Mandan and Legacy twice.
Jamestown will play either Fargo Shanley/Oak Grove or Fargo Davies in next week's state quarterfinals on the Jays' home grass. East Region play wraps up Saturday.
"Playing at home is a huge factor for this team, and we are kind of on a momentum right now," Harty said. "There's nothing to lose coming in as the fourth seed for us. (Tonight) was a hard-fought game but it was fun to see those girls finish it out."
Jamestown 3, Mandan 2
JHS 3 0 -- 3
MHS 1 1 -- 2
1. J, Haley Nelson (Peyton Rudnick), 3rd minute; 2. J, Rudnick (unassisted), 5th; 3. M, Alonna Allickson (Elizabeth Geiger), 23rd; 4. J, Ashlyn Schauer (Hannah Murchie), 28th; 5. M, Kylie Osborn (unassisted), 41st.
Goalkeeper saves: M, Olivia Geiger 2. J, Meredith Walker 6.
Records: Jamestown 5-8-2. Mandan 7-4-2.