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Girls Soccer: LHS girls move on to state finals

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| October 27, 2009 12:00 AM

One more win.

The Libby High School girls soccer team put together just enough offense mixed in with a series of standout plays on defense to move through the Class A state semifinals in Troy on Saturday, 2-1, over Hamilton.

The Lady Loggers will play for their first-ever girls soccer championship this weekend against Billings Central. As of Monday, the game time had not been finalized. Depending on field conditions at LHS, the game could again be moved to Roosevelt Park in Troy. School officials will make a final decision later this week.

Jaime Gilden scored two goals – both set up on passes from Anna Valentine – to account for the Logger offense in the win over Hamilton. The tandem seemed to be in tune most of the afternoon with the Valentine-to-Gilden presence nearly leading to at least three other goals.

On what turned out to be the winning shot, Gilden’s second goal materialized in the 33rd minute.

“That’s called being in the right place at the right time,” Lady Loggers coach Matt Warner said. “That’s what’s going to happen with quick passing.”

With Hamilton caught in transition, Libby got the ball downfield quick with Valentine booting it from midfield ahead of a sprinting Gilden. Hamilton goalkeeper Ali Stahl approached for the stop, but Gilden instead tapped it past her and scored into an empty net.

The shot gave the Lady Loggers a 2-1 lead that held up the rest of the way.

“In the first half, our passing was a little off,” Warner said. “It improved a lot in the second half.”

Still, Libby did its offensive damage over those first 40 minutes. The game’s first goal occurred in the 11th minute with Valentine again getting it started. Libby’s No. 10 passed to her right where Gilden emerged into the open and scored with a shot into the left side of the net.

Hamilton answered three minutes later with its only goal. Bryanna Gordon placed the ball in front of the net where teammate Casey Shifflett scored on a header.

In the second half, both teams battled back and forth. The Broncs could not finish for the equalizer while Libby just could not get that insurance goal for a little breathing room.

“They were doing everything they could,” Warner said about the Broncs’ second-half effort. “Their keeper was tough … she came out hard at us.”

The game featured a number of exceptional defensive plays by both squads. On Libby’s side, keeper Audra Poppen kept the game tied during a strong Hamilton offensive. Just two minutes after the Broncs scored their goal, Gordon put a corner kick into play. Erin Loranger nearly scored on a header but Poppen went high to get a hand on the ball for the deflection over the crossbar.

With 10 minutes left in the first half, Libby’s Lindsey Kehn made a good defensive play on Kelsi Almond, who had momentum after taking the ball downfield and venturing dangerously into the middle. In the final minute, Mechelle Wilson made another good defensive stop when the Broncs were threatening.

The Loggers’ good defensive play continued in the second half but the Broncs also squandered opportunities with kicks sailing high and wide. In one of the biggest defensive moments of the game for Libby, Chelsea Ahart kicked the ball out of the danger zone when Poppen was caught out of position with Shifflett ready to score.

Libby had a couple of close calls that could’ve easily been goals. In the first half, Hamilton keeper Stahl stopped a Gilden shot just in time by falling on the ball at the last possible moment five feet in front of the net. Gilden had a few other chances over the course of the game as well with most on set-ups from Valentine.

“It was a great team effort … they played very well together,” Warner said. “We needed them to play together as a team.”

The game was moved to Roosevelt Park in Troy after school officials found dismal field conditions following Friday night’s football game. The wet, muddy conditions created a slick field that would’ve provided big challenges for players.

The school made the decision to switch fields and communities only two hours before the scheduled start time. The game was not only moved to Troy but its start was delayed by one hour.

The Lady Loggers (13-0) will try to complete their perfect run this coming Saturday against Billings Central, the same school that eliminated Libby in the semifinals a year ago. Billings Central advanced with a 5-0 victory in the semifinals over Whitefish.