Bulldog girls one win away from state tourney
     2012-05-04      By Terry Gaston    news@geringcitizen.com
Gering’s Dani Copsey (No. 19) hustles toward to the ball to start a rally, while teammates Brooke Satur (No. 21) and Alexa Anderson (No. 9), and a Lexington defender move into position Tuesday afternoon. Gering girls prevailed 3-1 in the District B-6 semi-final game. The Lady Bulldogs will take on Holdrege Thursday for the district championship at 5 p.m. at the Landers Complex in Scottsbluff. 
SCOTTSBLUFF – The Gering Bulldog girls’ soccer team is just one win away from a trip to the Class B state tournament after dominating a much-improved Lexington team in scoring a 3-1 victory Tuesday in a District B-6 semifinal game at the Dr. Allan C. Landers Memorial Soccer Complex.

The Bulldogs (12-6), the top seed in the district tournament, will face No. 3 seed Holdrege (11-4) on Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Landers Complex. The Dusters earned the trip out west after downing Kearney Catholic (7-4) in Tuesday’s other semifinal, 2-1 at Baldwin Field in Kearney.

The district champion thus earns an automatic berth into the Class B state tournament, which starts next Wednesday and Thursday at Creighton University in Omaha. Semifinals are Saturday morning, and the championship game is Tuesday, May 14.

Gering defeated Lexington 7-0 at North Platte on March 31, and the other statistics from Tuesday’s rematch would have indicated a similar result.

Bulldogs coach Lisa Sweeney credited the Minutemaids for being a much better opponent than that first meeting, and a nasty westerly wind wreaked havoc on everything in its path, including Gering’s early ball-handling ability.

“We are usually used to playing in the wind, but this year we haven’t had to play in it very much,” said Sweeney, whose team kept most of the game’s action in the Lexington defensive zone. “I felt like we learned how to control the ball better as we went along and we played a lot better.”

Lexington (3-15), which advanced to the semifinals with a 3-1 win Monday over Scottsbluff, scored its first goal against Gering in the teams’ two meetings when senior Sally Homan punched home a loose ball in front of the goal in the seventh minute.

“I think they have come a long way and improved since we played them in North Platte,” Sweeney said of the Minutemaids. “They were ready to go.”

Gering forged a 1-all tie that stood at halftime when junior Josie Thompson worked the ball though traffic and fired a shot from the top of the penalty area in the 38th minute.

The Bulldogs outshot Lexington 17-2 in the first half and had an 8-2 advantage in shots on goal, but either the wind made shots sail wide or high, or Maids’ goalkeeper Paola Briones-Avila was able to trap loose balls before Gering got a second shot.

After Sweeney gave the Bulldogs a little stern encouragement at halftime, Gering scored in the 54th minute when freshman Kaylee Spreier punched a shot into the left corner for a 2-1 lead.

Twelve minutes later, Thompson scored on an unassisted shot to give the Bulldogs a more respectable lead and a two-goal cushion for the remaining 14 minutes.

“Once we started going forward, we started making complete plays and were looking to cross and find the net,” Sweeney said.

Gering finished with a 37-4 advantage in shots, 21-2 on goal, thus holding Lexington to no shots on goal in the second half. Junior goalkeeper Maggie Martin had just the one save after giving up the goal, thanks to her teammates’ swarming defense and ball control.

“Our goal was to win the ball every time and defend shots, and we did that the last 60 minutes of the game,” Sweeney said.

The Bulldogs opened the season with a 3-0 win over Holdrege in a game played at North Platte.

“From talking to other coaches, I understand they have come a long way from that first game and it sounds like they have made some changes and improved,” Sweeney said of the Dusters. “But we just need to focus on what we can control.”

Lexington 3, Scottsbluff 1 Scottsbluff needed less than 30 seconds to score in its District B-6 first-round game Monday against Lexington.

Unfortunately for the Bearcats, that goal would be their only one of the match — and the last of their season.

Lexington scored two first-half goals with the south wind at its backs and added an insurance goal in the second half for a 3-1 victory and move into Tuesday’s semifinal against top-seeded Gering.

Scottsbluff took the opening kickoff against the stiff wind and immediately set up the first score, on which sophomore McKenzie Sanchez kicked a high-arching shot over Briones-Avila and just under the crossbar 27 seconds into the match. Sophomore Micah Holloway earned the assist.

“McKenzie got off to a strong start,” Scottsbluff coach Chad Larson said. “Megan Gealy (one of the Bearcats’ three seniors) is gone to national DECA, so we dropped McKenzie into the midfield to give her decent vision of the field.”

Lexington, which showed much better play than its 2-14 record entering the game, tied the score at 1-all in the ninth minute and went ahead in the 33rd minute to hold a 2-1 halftime lead.

The Minutemaids added a goal in the 64th minute, and the rest was up to Briones-Avila, a sophomore who pulled in several close range Scottsbluff shots and had 11 saves for the game.

The Bearcats actually outshot Lexington 17-12, with a 12-8 advantage in shots on goal. Junior Morgan Westphal had five saves for Scottsbluff.

In Lexington’s solid passing execution, Larson saw elements on which the Bearcats need to improve for next season.

“We just couldn’t finish our shots and just couldn’t get the ball to hit the back of the net,” Larson said. “That is the experience of learning. With our younger players still learning how to attack, the play is harder to develop.”

Larson, whose team (6-11) played .500 ball after opening the year at 0-5, hopes off-season work will help the Bearcats in their quest to improve next spring.

“You hate to say this was a rebuilding season, but hopefully we will keep the girls together in the off-season and keep working harder,” Larson said. “We saw some growth, and for the most part we are moving in the right direction.”

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