By Mike Maltais
The Liberty Bell High School varsity girls’ soccer team played a tough opening season schedule last week, squeezing three games into a five-day stretch including the last against the defending state champions from Bear Creek High School in Redmond.
Against three teams comprised of deeper and more experienced rosters the Lady Lions handed a surprised Okanogan a 3-2 loss, fell to a senior-heavy Tonasket team, 6-3, and played Bear Creek toe-to-toe while the Grizzlies managed to beat last year’s state finalists, 4-0.
“The first game is always a tough one,” said coach Mike Wilson of Liberty Bell’s season opener against the Bulldogs on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
“We took the field against Okanogan, having not beaten them in six tries over the past three years,” Wilson said.
As the game got underway it appeared that Okanogan was going to cruise to a seventh consecutive victory as the Bulldogs quickly took a 1-0 lead in the third minute of play.
“We came out flat and without energy,” Wilson said. “We were being beat to the ball and generally out-hustled. “
Okanogan scored again in the 17th minute and introduced the crucial tipping point that would determine whether the Lady Lions would fold or respond.
“Thankfully they responded,” Wilson said.
Tabitha Bergevin-Krumme led the revival in the 27th minute with a “brilliant shot with her left foot, tucking the ball into the left side of the net,” Wilson recalled. “That was the shot in the arm the team needed.”
Lauren Fitzmaurice added her own goal two minutes later with a “clinical left-footed shot into the upper corner,” Wilson said.
Both teams played the remainder of the half evenly.
With 14 minutes off the clock in the second half, freshman Danielle Mott set up senior Tulie Budiselich for the game-winning shot across the face of the goal to the far post.
“The final 20 minutes were a little nervy as the ladies had the lead but weren’t sure how to protect it,” Wilson said.
Thanks to the defense comprised of Bergevin-Krumme, Haley Post, and Kathleen Chavey-Reynaud and the goalkeeping combo of Hannah Hafsos and Fitzmaurice, the Lady Lions preserved the win.
“Tonasket is a senior-heavy team, physical, and big,” Wilson said adding that his team had to “dig deep, play big and play with energy” to overcome the deficit.
After giving up a goal in the fourth minute, the game was delayed in the sixth minute when Fitzmaurice broke her wrist and was kept immobilized on the field until the ambulance could arrive.
When the game resumed 30 minutes later the Tigers added scores in the 24th and 27th minutes to enter the half up, 3-0.
The Lady Lions came roaring back in the second half with a score by Mia Kennedy two minutes in off an Estrella Corrigan assist.
“Then Budiselich struck in the 55th minute off an assist from Kennedy, to make it 3-2,” Wilson said.
Tonasket counterattacked with goals in the 59th and 63rd minutes before Kennedy struck again in for Liberty Bell the 67th minute off an assist from Corrigan.
Satisfied with the strong comeback by his team, Wilson began subbing his younger players with the score at 5-3. Tonasket added a final goal in the 74th minute.
Champs win 4-0
Reigning state champions Bear Creek were in town Saturday (Sept. 14) for their very first encounter with the Lady Lions.
“Bear Creek was obviously the stronger team,” Wilson conceded. “They out shot us 27-2 but we held strong, competed, and played beyond our years.”
Wilson started three eighth graders against the Grizzlies, Lauren Ochoa at goal, Haley Post as sweeper and Hannah Weymuller at stopper.
Bear Creek didn’t find the net until 18 minutes into the game, hit pay dirt again three minutes later and took a 2-0 lead into the half.
The Grizzlies kept the pressure on the Lady Lion goalkeepers but didn’t score their third goal until nearly midway into the second half. Bear Creek scored for the final time in the 71st minute.
“We competed the whole game against a team that we knew was superior, but we did frustrate them, and made it more difficult than they thought it would be,” Wilson said.
Goalkeepers Ochoa and Hafsos “played fabulously and received accolades from both the Bear Creek coaching staff as well as the officials,” Wilson said. “If we continue to grow, learn, and improve, we might be fortunate enough to see them again in November, and will hopefully be able to give them a better match.”
The coach singled out the play of Ella Hall and Cassidy Butler at midfield, and Weymuller who was solid in the defense.
The Lady Lions will host Omak Thursday (Sept. 19) at 5 p.m.