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Girls Soccer: Libby, Billings Central ready to rumble

by Brad FuquaWestern News
| October 29, 2009 12:00 AM

When the final whistle blows on Saturday in the Class A state championship game, one team will suffer the sinking feeling of defeat for the first time this season while the other wildly celebrates perfection.

Both Libby and Billings Central enter the girls soccer finale with 13-0 records. The Lady Loggers head into the game confident that No. 14 is attainable.

“At first I was worried about how they’d be but yesterday (Monday), they were all excited with good attitudes and had a great workout,” second-year Libby coach Matt Warner said about his team’s psyche. “I’m not worried at this point.”

The Lady Loggers haven’t lost a game since falling to Billings Central in last season’s state semifinals. And this year, the Rams have rolled through opponents and incredibly, allowed only one goal in 1,040 minutes of action. Central also has a 28-game winning streak on the line.

“I think Billings Central’s going to put a team on the field that’ll be hard to beat,” Warner said. “They work very well together, they have good speed and I think front to back, they’ll be a solid team.”

Both the Rams and Loggers attack opponents with a variety of offensive weapons. In Billings Central’s case, Jackie Elliott is the big gun. Last week in a 5-0 victory over Whitefish, the Ram junior scored three goals.

Meanwhile, Libby’s Jaime Gilden and Anna Valentine will attract a lot of Central’s attention. Gilden is tied with Elliott for most goals this season while Valentine has been among the scoring leaders for the past two years.

“They’ll be marking them but we’ve also been working to have a multi-dimensional attack,” Warner said. “It’s just going to be a great game of soccer, I anticipate.”

Both teams have exceptional defenses with goalkeepers that are hard to score on. Libby’s Audra Poppen has come up big in the team’s first two playoff games. Central’s Austin Hanser has been a wall all season.

“We need to push them hard and take advantage of every opportunity,” Warner said. “I know that their keeper is tough from last year but I believe they don’t know what it’s like to be down. If we can get a goal early, maybe two, it’ll make a big difference.”

Libby actually held a 2-0 lead over the Rams last year only to see the opponent rally in the second half and win in overtime.

“I think it’s going to be an evenly-matched game,” Warner said. “It’s going to be the team that capitalizes on opportunities. I don’t think either team is going to have much for weaknesses. But if there are some, if we exploit their weaknesses, it’s going to be to our advantage.”

The game is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Logger Stadium.

Class A State Playoffs

First Round

Saturday, Oct. 17

Libby 4, Livingston 3 (SO)

Hamilton 2, Belgrade 1

Billings Central 5, Stevensville 0

Whitefish 4, Frenchtown 0

Semifinals

Saturday, Oct. 24

Libby 2, Hamilton 1

Billings Central 5, Whitefish 0

Championship

Saturday, Oct. 31

Billings Central (13-0-0) at Libby (13-0-0), 11 a.m.