Blue Jays top Sabers in WDA state qualifier
The Jamestown High School girls soccer team defeated Bismarck Legacy Thursday to advance to the state tournament.
It was the perfect way to begin Sophie McClean's summer and continue her senior soccer season.
"We made it to state," McClean said. "It feels good. We worked really hard for it. We proved a lot of people wrong -- we were voted No. 6 and here we are the No. 4 seed. It feels good."
McClean and the rest of the Jamestown High School girls soccer team defeated Bismarck Legacy 2-0 on Thursday in a West Region tournament state qualifier at Bismarck St. Mary's High School. The Jays will enter next week's North Dakota Class A Girls State Soccer Tournament as the West Region's No. 4 seed and will play East Region No. 1 West Fargo-Sheyenne in the quarterfinals on June 3 in Grand Forks.
"It's very exciting for this team," JHS head coach Brandi Harty said. "They worked hard all season so it's nice that they get this reward. I think they knew what was on the line so the first 15 minutes of the game, there had to be high intensity."
Things got intense with nine minutes down.
After narrowly missing an empty netter, the Jays rebounded and put pressure on Legacy's Brooklyn Gallion. The Jays managed three shots on goal in the first half, one of which belonged to Hannah Murchie. The junior midfielder fought through the crowd of Blue Jay wingers and Saber defenders to push the ball past Gallion to make it a 1-0 ballgame.
Jamestown's Haley Nelson tried to make it 2-0 a few minutes later, but her powerful boot was closer to clearing the football goalpost. Harty said the Jays' dynamic group of scorers will serve as powerful weapons against the Mustangs next week.
"We have a lot of threats so (West Fargo-Sheyenne) is going to have to be aware of those," Harty said. "That is a huge testament to our attacking game because we have multiple people who are able to distribute and finish. It's a very big advantage for us."
Nelson, a junior winger for the Jays, doubled the Jays' score with a power boot off an assist from Peyton Waliser.
Bismarck Legacy had a chance to halve the score with just 1:38 left to play in the half, but Payton Kooiman couldn't get the ball past Jamestown's eighth-grade goalie Leah Torres. The Jays outshot the Saints 8-7 across the 80 minutes and Torres nabbed 11 saves.
"I am so proud of her," McClean said of Torres. "She's been working really hard in practice and she's stepped up a lot. With Olivia (Sorlie) getting hurt, this is her chance to prove herself to us and she has. I see a really good future for her."
Sorlie, the Jays' original starting goalkeeper pick, suffered a broken wrist in the Jays' outing against Bismarck Century April 24. Torres got her first start of the year in the Jays' scoreless draw with the Sabers on April 27.
Torres, along with McClean, Brenna Hatch, Hannah Sjostrom and Allie Windjue have been anchors on the backline all season long and came in clutch when the Jays' tired offense couldn't come up with any more scores in the second half.
"Our girls have been really, really trying to work on aerial balls and today, especially Hannah Sjostrom, did a fantastic job in the air today," Harty said. "That helps us when we are able to attack in the air defensively and clear the ball out. I was impressed with how they attacked that way."
Harty hasn't been the only one who has been impressed with the Jays' steady and consistent defense.
"Jamestown has a solid defense," Legacy head coach Logan Christensen said. "We haven't been able to score all year against them.
"We knew that Jamestown likes to possess the ball and really work so we figured we would try and possess and beat them at their own game to stand a chance. We made some formation changes to try and get some quicker players up top to try and generate more offense."
The Sabers' game plan almost worked in the 76th minute of the game.
With 3:37 left to play in regulation, Legacy strung a series of passes together that ended up being kept out of the goal by a Torres slide. A call on the Blue Jays forced a Sabers' corner kick but no one came close enough to put one in the back of the net.
The Jays got the repossession to wind down the clock and the final horn signaled McClean's fourth trip to the Class A state tourney.
"I love this team like a family, they are my family," McClean said. "I am excited to compete with my team for one last time."
Jamestown 2, Bismarck Legacy 0
JHS 2 0 -- 0
LEG 0 0 -- 0
1. JHS, Hannah Murchie (Sara Sletto), 9th minute.; 2. JHS, Haley Nelson (Peyton Waliser), 30th minute
Shots on goal: JHS 9; LEG 8.
Saves: JHS, Leah Torres, 11; LEG, Brooklyn Gallion, 6.