SANDPOINT — Junior defender Jezza Hutto tallied a goal, an assist, and a big kick save, and a stingy defense controlled much of the action as the No. 1 seed Bulldogs blanked No. 2 seed Moscow 2-0 on Wednesday in the 4A Region 1 girls soccer championship at Pine St. Field.
Kayla Inman got the Bulldogs (10-2-1) a pressure-relieving goal in the 8th minute, filling in for the injured Riley Walkington in the attack and making her presence felt all game with a solid presence around the goal. The early tally freed up the Bulldogs to play much more freely in a traditionally tense game where the season hangs in the balance.
“Our players put a lot of pressure on themselves. I try to take it off them,” said Bulldogs head coach Conor Baranski, lauding the early goal of Inman. “I was impressed with her composure filling in for Riley.”
Goalie Shea Kilpatrick made a diving stop in first half to preserve the lead, and not long after Hutto made a kick save on a Moscow blast that appeared to be heading for a goal.
Moscow caught the Bulldogs off guard early with a strategic departure from their normally conservative approach.
“They high pressed us really hard. We were nervous, but we got the job done,” said Bulldog senior midfielder Hadley Marshall. “I’m proud of us for keeping our cool and getting a shutout.”
The Bears showed some grit, but most of their attacking runs were thwarted by the back three of Yeo Yarnell, Mya Darling and Hutto, who seems to be all over the field.
Baranski had high praise for the play of his backfield, which helped Kilpatrick notch her third shutout in goal.
“Defensively the last two games they’ve been nearly perfect,” claimed Baranski. “Yeo and Jezza were the players that had the time and space.”
Hutto would add an insurance goal in the 67th minute, making one of her runs up the side before launching a high arcing shot that almost resembled a 25 yard punt in football, the ball slipping just under the crossbar and over the Moscow goalie’s hands for a 2-0 lead.
Baranski praised the tone set by his seniors, many of whom have played in a few of these games and were up to the task.
“I was impressed with our senior leadership,” said Baranski. “Hadley has been clutch this season. She’s played well in big games.”
Shaha, who along with Emi Lynch will be the target forwards heading to state with Walkington currently out with injury, made sure the Bulldogs didn’t press too hard early in an elimination game.
“Just being calm on the ball and playing it into spaces,” said Shaha, who feels the team has the chemistry to compete for a state title. “We’re good at working together. We’ve gotten really close this year, and it’s helped us on and off the field. Getting past that first game will lead us to the championship.”
Senior Rachel Meyer was part of the last Sandpoint team that won a state title as a freshman, and knows full well what the state tournament competition feels like.
Like Baranski, she knows the Bulldogs have the talent to win it, but also knows it takes a lot of breaks and bounces to go your way to make a run at the championship.
“We’re going to have much more competition,” said Meyer of heading to state. “We’ll need to want it really badly and play with heart.”
Sandpoint will face the No. 2 seed from District 4 in the opener of the 4A state tournament in Caldwell on Thursday.
First half — 1, Spt, Kayla Inman (Jezza Hutto), 8:00. Second half — 2, Spt, Hutto (unassisted), 67:00.
Shots on goal — Spt 17, Mos 3.
Saves — Spt, Shea Kilpatrick, 3; Moscow, 12.