Bulldogs’ win over Knights hardly an upset

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SANDPOINT — Upset nothing, this was vintage Sandpoint soccer, pure and simple.

Congrats to the Sandpoint girls soccer team, which reminded people why it’s one of the premier programs in the state, regardless of classification, with a dominating showing at state that ended with a surprise — at least to some — 1-0 win over Bishop Kelly in the championship.

The publisher of the Daily Bee said on Monday that it was great to see a “David vs. Goliath” ending in the 4A state championship.

Say what?

Bishop Kelly coach Curtis Eisenberg, whose only two career losses are against Sandpoint, said his team felt “kind of disbelief” to see a sparkling unbeaten stretch of 88-0-1 come to an end.

Why?

David Southorn, who covered the game for both the Idaho Statesman and the Daily Bee, said in an email that “most think it’s an upset, especially with BK getting shut out.”

Really?

A closer look reveals far more than the records of Sandpoint (12-3-4) and Bishop Kelly (19-0-1) heading into the championship.

Bishop Kelly spent the regular season blowing out 4A competition Mountain Home by scores of 10-0 and 9-0, Caldwell and Kuna by the scores of 9-1, Emmett 8-0 and Nampa and Columbia 7-0, rarely getting tested.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs lost 4-0 and 3-0 to Central Valley and Gonzaga Prep, and tied Mead 3-3 and Mt. Spokane 0-0, cutting their teeth against far tougher Greater Spokane League competition. Add in playing up in another eight matches against 5A competition, including last year’s two 5A finalists in Lake City and Post Falls, and you’ve got a battle tested squad.

Another plus in playing the far bigger GSL schools is that to schedule each usually means three or even four games in one week, which helps prepare a team for the rigors of three straight games at state.

The two 4A rivals have now met four times in the past five 4A state championships, with each winning two. You could argue Sandpoint’s wins were more decisive, because the Knights actually won in overtime and shootouts, while the Bulldogs won in regulation. Sandpoint now has six banners since 2000, while Bishop Kelly has five.

Are you still as shocked by the result?

There is a lot of soccer talent running around Sandpoint, and tons of great coaches at nearly every level, feeding a pipeline of great players into the system each year.

Bishop Kelly had scored 53 goals in its previous nine games, before goalie Makayla Sundquist and defenders Corinne Ariss, Madi Schoening, Ashtyn Evans and Alanna Robinson posted their third shutout of the state tournament.

The best players need to step up at state, and that’s exactly what happened as Emma Weme assisted Sierra Scott for the game’s only goal. The duo drove the Bulldogs’ offense all season, and Scott scored a goal in every game at state, while Weme assisted on six of the seven goals scored. The two will be sorely missed next year, while new blood figures try and fill the big shoes.

Conor Baranski, in his second year guiding the program, claimed his first state title. The former Sandpoint and Gonzaga soccer standout was never shy about his goal, saying before the season that anything short of a state title would be a disappointment. Even before the final, he felt his team would win, and damned if he wasn’t right.

Will Sandpoint win the state title next year? Who knows, soccer can be strange. But if they do, please don’t call it an upset.

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