Friday, December 01, 2023

Lady Bulldogs score double digits against Frenchtown

by BRANDON HANSEN, For the Pilot
| August 30, 2023 1:00 AM

Scoring double digits in a soccer game could, by most accounts, be considered a good day.

A good day is how the 2023 season started for the Whitefish girls soccer team, which defeated a young non-conference foe, Frenchtown, 10-0 Saturday, Aug. 26.

“From our perspective, we wanted to keep the game tempo high even though we were playing a young opponent which can sometimes not give you expected looks and tendencies,” Whitefish Head Coach Roland Benedict said. “We managed our spaces and utilized our full team to the best of our ability. We created chances with how we wanted to create them with our style of play.”

The Lady Bulldogs got excellent play from Olivia Genovese and Isabelle Cooke, who each posted hat tricks in the victory.

Whitefish put 31 shots on goal and had six corner kicks. Statistically, it was a dominant performance as Frenchtown had zero shots on goal, the Lady Bulldogs’ goalie did not register a save and the Lady Broncs had no corner kicks.

Also scoring goals for Whitefish were Sadie Olson, Madison Gordon, and Delaney Smith while Truth Baxter and Genovese had three assists. Benedict said he was happy with all the different positions and players getting into the offensive mix with assists and goals.

“Our goal is to be a team that can hurt you in a lot of different ways,” Benedict said. “If you have just one player as the focal point, those good teams will key in on that. You look at these teams that have won state titles, and four and five girls on the team are dangerous.”

This season is one of high expectations for the team. Whitefish reached the State Class A final last season only to be narrowly defeated by Billings Central.

While Whitefish lost five seniors from that team, the program is far from lacking talent.

Returning players include All-State standouts such as Norra Schmidt, who shines as a goalkeeper, and Issabel Cooke, a three-time All-State central midfielder. Olivia Genavieve, the team's leading scorer, and Smith, a second-team all-conference player, add depth and experience to the roster.

The Northwestern A Conference will present a competitive challenge, including Flathead Valley foe Columbia Falls.

"Columbia Falls is always a problem purely based on rivalry," Benedict said. "The matches against them are always tight and nervy. Both teams have reason to be concerned, and it's a rivalry that fuels great matches."

But go up and down the conference, and each team presents a unique battle, and each program always strives to improve.

Benedict said one of the defining factors for this season will be adapting new players to pivotal roles.

"We lost a lot of leadership in that senior class," Benedict notes. "The biggest thing for us is whether we can get our new players to fill those roles and play the way we like to play."

While the midfield will look different this year, the style of play the Lady Bulldogs employ should highlight them.

"We like to dictate the game through possession," Benedict explains. "We want the opponents to chase and tire, leading to mistakes and frustration. We pride ourselves in keeping the ball in order to dictate the game, with an average possession rate of around 72 percent last season."

The team is focused on training everyone to the same high level.

"We've shifted from the traditional varsity and JV structure to a more integrated program with a first team and reserve team," Benedict notes. "This ensures that players transitioning to the varsity team are fully prepared and confident in their abilities."

Next up Whitefish is hosting Stevensville on Friday at 4 p.m. and then will turn around to host Loyola at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

“Stevensville, we haven’t played in a couple of years, but they are a playoff team with a good goalkeeper, so it will be nice to get a good test against that kind of pedigree,” Benedict said.

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