It’s been a rough stretch record-wise for the Liberty Bell High School boys’ soccer program, though you wouldn’t know it talking with coaches or players. The Mountain Lions are currently riding a four-game losing streak, but all were very competitive matches against teams above them in the Central Washington B standings.
The last two matches have been heartbreaking overtime losses, first on Thursday (April 13) at Washington 2B No. 1-ranked Bridgeport, 4-3, in an overtime shootout, and then Saturday (April 15) in their 2023 home opener against Manson, with less than two minutes left in the second overtime, 3-2.
On Saturday at Mountain Lion stadium it was a whole different feeling watching the 2023 lads on the pitch. They played the Trojans straight up with tough defense and an attacking offense that provided the first goal of the game, Liberty Bell taking a lead with 12:45 to go in the first half as Jayden Hammer slammed the ball into the Manson net from close in front.
Both teams spent time controlling the ball in their offensive ends with solid passing and good on-on-one handling, but few shots actually threatened the net. When shots did find their way goalward, Manson’s senior net minder Gerardo Guerrero and Liberty Bell freshman Alex Ramsey-George were up to the task. Liberty Bell took the 1-0 lead into halftime.
In the second half, the Trojans seemed to take a little more control of the ball and field position. There was a serious incursion 4:30 into the period deep into the Mountain Lion zone by Manson’s Amazaih Ramirez, but speedy sophomore Bradyn Schmekel was able to catch up and disrupt the Trojan forward’s shot attempt.
The Mountain Lions responded with several shots on goal, two bullets by Clyde McCarthy that Guerrero was able to turn away. Manson then began to apply the pressure, holding the ball in the Mountain Lion’s end for several shots on goal, Ramirez finding the back of the net with 30:45 left in regulation to knot the match at 1 apiece.
Liberty Bell took the lead back at 2-1 with 19:00 showing on the clock. Finn Simmons took the ball down the left side toward the west end goal, eluding a Trojan player near the goal line on a nifty reverse pivot. Moving the ball into the goal box, Simmons served up a perfect pass to an awaiting Hammer who pounded the ball past Guerrero into the net.
For the next 13 minutes Manson continued to apply pressure in their offensive end. A free kick from the left side about 15 yards out by Ramirez just got over the outstretched hands of the Mountain Lion goalkeeper into the left corner for the 2-2 equalizer with four and a half minutes remaining to close out the scoring in regulation time and send the game to overtime.
In the first 5-minute overtime period, both teams moved the ball well up field, but shots on goal were few and inconsequential. In the second overtime, Arlen Crum had the best opportunity to end the match when he fired a hard shot from about 10 meters away, only to have it deflect off of two Manson defenders.
Manson again moved the ball up the field into their offensive end where the Mountain Lions were hit with an illegal contact violation that set up the Trojans with a free kick from about 20 meters out. Ramirez, their designated free kicker, lined up the shot and drilled it just over Ramsey-George into the far corner and Manson notched their fifth league win of the season.
Coach Mark Crum waxed a little philosophical after the match on Saturday. “Yeah, it’s kinda frustrating to be so close and not come out with a win,” he said. “They’re playing so much better and really improving, still …” the pregnant pause indicating the disappointment of another close loss.
Manson (5-3) moved into a virtual tie with Okanogan (5-2) in 3rd place behind Brewster (6-2) and Bridgeport (7-0). The Mountain Lions dropped to 1-5 and into a 6th-place tie with Oroville. Pateros was at Liberty Bell on Tuesday (April 18), then travels to Manson on Thursday (April 20). Okanogan comes to Liberty Bell on Saturday (April 22) for an 11a.m. kickoff, followed by a key home match with Oroville on Thursday (April 27), kickoff at 4:30 p.m.
Brewster bests boys, girls
In a rare back-to-back, home-and-home series of games, the Mountain Lions were swept in both baseball and softball by the Brewster Bears. The schools played Tuesday (April 11) at Liberty Bell, both coming off of their respective spring breaks, and followed that on Saturday (April 15) with double-headers at Brewster. The girls sandwiched in a Thursday game at home versus Okanogan.
Very little went well for both programs in last week’s gauntlet. The boys dropped all three to the Bears, 9-3 on Tuesday at home, then 11-1 and 10-0 on the road Saturday. Tuesday’s game saw the Mountain Lions fall behind early, succumbing to some pitching errors and four fielding errors, yet mounting a bit of a comeback late, scoring two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Brewster put the game out of reach in the top of the seventh.
At Brewster Saturday, the Mountain Lion bats fell mostly silent, as both games were called on the fifth inning 10-run rule.
Things weren’t much better for the girls on the softball diamond. After dropping a 22-3 Tuesday afternoon game at home to the Bears, the girls had to take on No. 1 Okanogan. Liberty Bell was able to post some runs in the middle innings as patient bats and some smart base running helped the girls get some touches at home, but Okanogan just has too much power with too many solid veteran players, and clinched the five-inning, 10-run rule win.
Then it was down to Brewster on Saturday, where the Bears swept the afternoon double-header with a pair of shutout wins, 18-0 and 16-0.
There is home action this week for both the boys and girls as Bridgeport brings both teams on Thursday (April 20), first pitch at both locations at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday both teams head to Okanogan for double-headers that start at 11 a.m. Tuesday (April 25) is another home date when the Tonasket Tigers bring both softball and baseball teams to Liberty Bell for a pair of 4:30 p.m. games.
Mountain Lions at Cashmere Invitational
Liberty Bell sophomore distance runner Dexter Delaney returned to the track for the first time this year and ran to victory in the 3,000-meter run at the Cashmere Invitational Track and Field meet Saturday (April 15). Teammate javelin thrower Fischer Edwards did likewise in his event, setting a new personal mark of 151 feet, 5 inches on his way to the top of the podium. Delaney’s time of 9:25.17 was also a personal record.
The Cashmere Invitational featured 17 schools from western and central Washington, including traditional 1A powers Cashmere, King’s and Meridian and a blend of 1B, 2B and 1A schools along with 2A Lynden, also in the field.
There were some other solid performances by the local contingent. On the girls’ side of the meet, personal records and/or top 10 placings included: Sandra Hernandez took 6th in the 400M, Marit Nelson placed 6th in the 1,500M, and Leki Albright took home 3rd in the 3,000M. Audrey Roman joined with Hernandez, Nelson and Albright to place 5th in the 4x400M relay.
On the boys’ side, Kyler Mitchell set a PR in the 400M with a time of 55.86 seconds, good for 9th. Aksel Thomson and Will Halpin finished 5th and 6th, respectively, in the 800M, Thomson running a season best 2:14.47 and Halpin setting a personal mark of 2:15.75. The duo doubled in the 1,500M, Halpin placing 5th and Thomson 11th.
Zack Baldwin set a PR in the shot put, Omar Ortega as well in the discus, and Isaiah Stoothoff placed 5th in a very competitive field of high jumpers. Riley Lidey set a new mark in the long jump at 17 feet, 5 inches, placing 12th; Stoothoff set a PR and placed 6th in the same event.
Three meets loom on the schedule for Liberty Bell. On Tuesday, the Mountain Lions traveled to Cascade High School’s track facility near Peshastin. Saturday it’s on to Quincy for the CLA Quincy Invite at 11 a.m.
Tuesday (April 25), Liberty Bell hosts a small-schools meet at Mountain Lion stadium, first events at 4 p.m. Coach Erik Brooks has put out a plea for volunteers. Call Activities Director Michael Wilbur at (509) 996-2215 if interested.
Mountain Lions top Raiders
On a blustery, cold and breezy Wednesday afternoon (April 12), the Mountain Lions hosted the Lake Roosevelt Raiders at the tennis courts near at Methow Valley Elementary School. On a day when the goal was to get through the matches as quickly as possible, go home, sit by the fire and have a warm meal, the first match out of the gate defied coach’s preferences. Liberty Bell girls’ No. 1 doubles, featuring exchange student Michela Hatlova and first-year player Kara McMillan, engaged their Raider opponents in a three-set, 2 ½- hour marathon. They came out on the short end, though, 2-6, 7-5 (including a 9-7 tie breaker), 1-6.
“Oh my gosh. That was insane”, said eighth-grader McMillan. “It was so cold and seemed like it would never end.”
Overall, Lake Roosevelt came away with a 3-2 match victory on the girls’ side of the ledger. Claudia Gomez and Amelia Evans both came away with 8-1 pro-set wins while Ellie Blank dropped her match, winning set one convincingly at 6-1, then losing set two 3-6 and withdrawing as a result of injury, trailing 5-6 in the third set.
The Mountain Lion boys won their match, dominating 5-0. It was a total reversal from an early season loss to the Raiders, one that coach Dave Schultz attributes to new assistant coach Bettina Gehle’s work with the boys on their return strategies.
In a match that lasted even longer than the girls’ doubles match, Liberty Bell boys’ pair Connor Herlihy and Gannet Fisher came away with a 7-6 tiebreaker, 2-6 and 6-1 match win that took about three hours in the bitter conditions. Gavin Blank and Levin Lott also won their doubles match, albeit in quicker, 8-1 pro-set fashion. Angel Arellano (6-1, 6-2), EZ Kirk (6-2, 6-3) and Nathan Buck (8-1 pro-set) all grabbed victories for the Mountain Lions.
Next home action for Liberty Bell Tennis is Monday (April 24) when Eastmont’s JV makes the trip to take on the Mountain Lions. First matches start at 4 p.m.