Jamestown High School's Haley Nelson should've buried a hat trick on Tuesday hosting Mandan at Rotary Soccer Field.
But give the Blue Jay freshman forward a couple more seasons and she probably won't send a point-blank shot on the left side of the goal box straight into the goalkeeper's stomach in the 79th minute. Jamestown defeated Mandan 4-2, with Nelson scoring in both halves.
"I do that a lot," laughed Nelson on finding the opposing netminder. "It was a really good win for us and it was a whole team effort. We all did amazing."
Jamestown has been waiting for a second attacker to emerge this season to help offset the scoring load that weighs on all-stater Peyton Rudnick, and Nelson appears to be making the appropriate strides. Behind an assist from eighth-grader Breanna Oettle, Nelson tied the match at 1-1 in the eighth minute after Mandan staked a 1-0 lead in the opening 30 seconds on a quick strike from junior midfielder Elizabeth Geiger.
Rudnick, a senior captain, took over from there, scoring back-to-back goals before the half with assists from Ashlyn Schauer and Brenna Hatch to put Jamestown ahead 3-1. Jamestown (2-7-2) was coming off a rough 6-1 loss at top-of-the-table Bismarck on Saturday, but Tuesday's explosive offense produced plenty of Blue Jay smiles and energy.
Mandan defeated Jamestown 1-0 back in April.
"Oh my gosh, that's our biggest thing right now," said Blue Jay coach Brandi Harty. "We are struggling with high balls and set pieces, and when (Geiger) scored that in, like, the first 30 seconds of the game, I said, 'Girls, do not get down. You've gotta keep going.'
"They fought and that's what this team does. That's good to see that they are continuing with their spirits that way."
It's also good to see goals from a second Blue Jay weapon. Rudnick assisted Nelson in the 65th minute to end the scoring, after a Sarah Burgum goal in the 47th brought the visitors to within 3-2.
"We worked long and hard with her. She's coming around," Harty said of Nelson. "Tonight was a big deal for her because she hasn't finished many, so it was good to see that happen."
The win kept Jamestown's hopes of staying out of the West Region tournament's play-in match between the bottom two seeds alive. If Jamestown wins its final two matches-hosting Bismarck Legacy on Friday and at Minot on Saturday-and Bismarck is able to defeat Bismarck St. Mary's on Friday, the Jays will leap past the St. Mary's Saints and capture the conference's fifth seed.
The West Region tournament play-in match is scheduled for 7 p.m. next Tuesday (May 21) at Mandan's Dacotah Centennial Park, which will also host the six-team tournament on May 23. The tournament includes a pair of state qualifiers and a championship match between the conference's top two regular-season teams.
"We've obviously got two games left with Legacy and Minot," Harty said. "It would be nice for us to not get that play-in game. That's kind of our goal."
Jamestown 4, Mandan 2
MHS 1 1 -- 2
JHS 3 1 -- 4
1. M, Alonna Allickson 1st minute; 2. J, Haley Nelson (Breanna Oettle), 8th; 3. J, Peyton Rudnick (Ashlyn Schauer) 34th; 4. J, Rudnick (Brenna Hatch) 39th; 5. M, Sarah Burgum 47th; 6. J, Nelson (Rudnick), 65th.
Goalkeeper saves: M, Olivia Geiger 9; J, Meredith Walker 4.
Records: Jamestown 2-7-2, 2-7-1 West Region. Mandan 7-4-1, 7-4-1.