If Class AA’s new team is to have success this season, a lot of it will ride on the shoulders of Mackenzie Turner. The sophomore proved she is up to the challenge Thursday evening.
Turner faced 15 shots and made eight saves to lead Belgrade to a 1-0 shutout of Bozeman’s JV. That includes a key save on a breakaway with less than 10 minutes remaining to preserve the one goal lead.
“She is a defensive force. We are going to really rely on her and that’s going to be the kind of way we play with that scrappiness,” first-year Belgrade coach Carl Bridwell said. “With her leading from the back making those big saves it’s going to help our defense be a lot calmer.”
While the contest was a friendly — it did not count in the standings — both teams showed plenty of grit throughout the match at the Belgrade Youth Sports Complex.
Bozeman had more offensive opportunities, but it was the Panthers’ Sarah Marshall who notched the lone goal. The senior forward scored on a long shot from well outside of the right side of the box to the far post, and over the leaping hands of keeper Sabrina Scurry.
It was one of just a handful of serious shots Belgrade managed to get off in the contest.
“I told them that we aren’t going to have the 15 to 20 chances we had in single A. We have two to three chances that we got to put away,” said Bridwell. “Her’s was a long shot.”
Junior Kenna Thomas set up a scoring opportunity in the first half, while Scurry made a sliding save in the second to thwart a hard-charging Shaina Smith just outside of the box.
“We had a few where Kenna crossed the ball and Dalani (Brayton) was just outside. There was a another one where Shaina got beat by the goal keeper,” said Bridwell. “We got to put away one to two when we only have three or four chances.”
Overall, Bridwell was pleased with the team’s effort. But he noted the offense will need to be more efficient at finding the back of the net moving forward as the level of competition increases.
“We have some learning curves about the formation and the work ethic. They learned pretty quick, five minutes in, that those outside backs are running hard,” Bridwell said. “We had five girls play 60, 70 minutes of that game, and that’s going to be the M-O. But I think they’re excited about that.”
The Panthers begin conference play hosting Great Falls CMR Thursday, and then travel to Great Falls to play the Bison on Saturday.
Hawks’ boys shut out young Belgrade squad
Belgrade’s boys enjoyed veteran leadership and plenty of success over the past five years. It resulted in four consecutive appearances in the finals and a pair of state championships.
But it’s a vastly different look as the Panthers begin their first season as a Class AA program. There are just three seniors and a very inexperienced squad was on the pitch Thursday as Belgrade hosted Bozeman’s JV.
The Hawks scored four first half goals and then added three more in the second en route to a 7-0 victory.
“First half I feel like we just had a lot of nerves to shake off and get ready to play,” first-year Belgrade coach Jeff DeBuse said. “Second half I started to see some stuff we worked on offensively trying to combine first and then working the space, and I liked that. But then we got caught out of position a lot defensively, so we definitely have stuff we’ve got to work on on both sides of the ball.”
There were plenty of breakdowns and miscommunications on both ends of the field, but it was the first varsity action of any kind for much of the team. But DeBuse felt the lack of energy at the start of the match set the tone for the day.
“We just need to be in more of our game mindset. I think when we came out in the first half we came out slow and they we weren’t really able to get in a rhythm that rest of the first half,” he said. “So something we really need to work on, aside from technique tactics, is to really flip it into game mode.”
Belgrade did not register a shot offensively, but DeBuse is hoping for better success with another week of practice.
“It’s just a friendly,” he said. “So luckily we can take that and kind of work with what we got, move forward and try to be better next week.”
Freshman Gavin Snajdr and sophomore Trey Nelson each played a half in goal against Bozeman, and Debuse is undecided on who will earn the position fulltime.
“Kind of leaning towards playing a couple of keepers each game just to try and get the most out those players,” DeBuse added. “Because they’re both primarily field players and goalie’s kind of second. They both play better in the field, but they both do well in goal, so it’s kind of trying to get the most out of each kid.”