Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hailey girls breeze in Basin 5-0 and 7-0

Fifth straight league title earns state ticket

Hailey girls breeze in Basin 5-0 and 7-0

In constant motion, Wood River junior Sam Johnson (left) flies past a Minico defender Thursday during her team?s 5-0 Great Basin West tournament victory on the Hailey pitch. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Wood River High School girls' soccer machine was hitting on all the right cylinders last week—and that translated into a fifth consecutive Great Basin West tournament title.

Peaking at the right time, Wood River (10-3-1, 8-0-0 in all league games) enjoyed an excellent district tournament and achieved its first goal of qualifying for the Hailey school's 13th state tournament trip in 15 seasons of varsity girls' soccer.

The top-seeded Wolverines blanked #4-seeded Minico of Rupert (5-13-2) by a 5-0 score Thursday and polished off #2-Burley (5-8-2) by a lopsided 7-0 margin in Saturday's championship game, both games staged at South Valley Sports Complex soccer field in Hailey.

Leading scorer Aimee Evans (21 goals season, 50 career, fourth-best in school annals) scored a three-goal hat trick against Burley. She got lots of help. Five Wolverines scored against Minico and four players found net against Burley.

Wood River (66-18 goals against, 7 shutouts) has won nine consecutive games and is unbeaten in 10 since a 4-0 road loss to top-ranked 4A Hillcrest of Idaho Falls (14-1-1) Aug. 25. The girls have outscored foes 58-7 in their winning streak.

Coach Greg Gvozdas said, "We had a much better district tournament this year.

"Sam (Johnson), Aimee and Tanner (Dredge) are doing better as a group to create scoring chances. Michelle (McMurdo) is doing a good job controlling the back. Our midfield has been a work in progress all season but the girls are coming along at the right time."

Hailey players coached by Gvozdas and Aaron Thompson are excited about the next 10 days and the next four post-season games, but they're also aware that the tough part of the 2007 soccer season lies ahead.

With 10 minutes remaining in Saturday's championship game and his team leading 6-0, Gvozdas removed many of his key starters. Assistant coach Thompson took them aside for a short motivational talk.

Thompson congratulated the starters on a strong effort but also sounded a cautionary note. He explained that the relatively easy part of winning the Great Basin title was over, and the Wolverines should expect to play a full 80 minutes of all-out tough, demanding and physical soccer in the games just ahead.

And the biggest game of the season so far will be Thursday, Oct. 11 against the two time defending State 4A champions Century of Pocatello (10-2-2), a game set for 5 p.m. in Pocatello.

Known for its rugged defense, Century won the District 5 championship 3-0 over Pocatello Monday, after the game was scoreless at half. That outcome put Century up against Wood River for the Great Basin Conference title for the fourth straight year.

Gvozdas said, "It will be tough game. We haven't fared well against Century (dropping four of the last five meetings) but it's important to show well down there in Pocatello because that's where state is."

Century has won the last two conference title match-ups over Wood River by 1-0 scores. Wood River won 1-0 over Century for the 2004 Basin crown. The teams were due to play Aug. 29 in Pocatello, but the Castle Rock Fire canceled school and the regular-season clash between the two teams.

Thursday's game is vitally important for state seeding purposes. The loser will draw the short straw and will have to play the District 6 champion, either Hillcrest or Blackfoot, in the first round at state in Pocatello Oct. 18. The winner will play the third-place team from the Boise area at state.

Although last year's 17-3-1 Wood River team scored 20 more goals, the current Wolverines are showing more post-season scoring balance if the Great Basin West tourney is any indication. "Once the whistle blows we seem to be moving forward," said Gvozdas.

Playing against a packed-in Minico defense Thursday, Wood River took a while figuring out how to slip through the Spartan cracks. Hailey outshot Minico 22-2 in the first half, 41-2 for the game and 9-0 in corners, but only Sam Johnson could score in the first half, after taking an Aimee Evans pass.

A build-up from defender Bailey Ireland to Evans gave Tanner Dredge a scoring chance and the freshman delivered at 50 minutes for a 2-0 lead. Snake-bit with several good chances gone awry, Evans finally found the strings on a left-footer at 72 minutes on a play orchestrated by Jazz Campbell.

Senior sweeper Michelle McMurdo punched home her first-ever varsity goal on a penalty at 78 minutes and Delaney Fox finished the rout at 5-0 on pass from McMurdo. Minico goalkeeper Melinda Martinez (27 saves) was a true standout.

The 7-0 championship game victory against Burley was more lopsided than last year's 3-0 title game affair between the two teams on the Hailey field. Wood River dominated the shooting 33-1 and 12-0 on corners, and senior 'Cat keeper Meagen Warner had 16 saves.

Sam Johnson, sent along the right wing after passes by McMurdo and Evans, skillfully crossed the ball just before it went out—and Dredge finished nicely for a 1-0 lead at seven minutes. The Wood River passing was something to see.

Taylor Hayes, another talented Hailey freshman, centered a ball that Burley's defense headed home for a 2-0 game at 24 minutes. Gvozdas said, "Taylor has been playing real well. She is our most improved player this year."

Delaney Fox started an attack at midfield that Evans finished with a bomb off the crossbar for a 3-0 halftime lead at the 39-minute mark. After half, McMurdo stayed aggressive out of the defense and Evans capitalized on a ball juggled by Warner, with Johnson threatening on the doorstep.

Campbell assisted Evans' hat trick goal at 61 minutes for a 5-0 cushion. Kelly Chapman's perfect lead pass to Fox ended up with Dredge scoring her second goal at 64 minutes. Soph Ivory Dilley closed out the WRHS scoring at 7-0 on a pretty assist from Jessica Martens.

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