The Flathead girls soccer team slipped to third place in the Western AA standings with a 2-0 loss to Missoula Sentinel at Kidsports Complex Saturday.
Both teams entered the contest on a roll as Flathead (6-4-0) had won its previous four games and Sentinel (6-2-2) was unbeaten in its last four with wins over Glacier and Missoula Big Sky and draws against Helena Capital and first-place Helena High.
After getting outscored 2-0 in the first half, Flathead controlled a majority of the possession in the second, but couldn’t solve Sentinel’s defense, which has conceded just two goals over its last five games.
“We made some adjustments at half time and I felt like we began to get a lot more offensive opportunities,” Flathead coach Scott Warnell said. “We just weren’t able to get anything in the back of the net today.”
Flathead’s main adjustment was to move sweeper Malia Ozegovich to the front line for the second half. The move helped the Bravettes create heavy pressure in their offensive third, but they couldn’t find space behind Sentinel’s back line led by sweeper Kayla Martin.
Flathead forward Jaclyn Rauthe intercepted a goal kick in the 42nd minute, but Martin closed her down and Rauthe couldn’t get a shot off.
The Bravettes got two more chances off a corner kick and a free kick in the 43rd and 45th minutes, but neither resulted in a shot on frame.
“We have a really good back line,” Sentinel coach Keri Grasky said. “They’re fast and composed, so even when (our opponent) has some players up there and they get the ball, they know what to do and they don’t overcommit. They don’t stab too often.”
Flathead nearly paid for its increased offensive effort in the 53rd minute, but goalkeeper Payton Pietron denied a Sentinel forward inside the 18-yard box.
The Bravettes finished with a flurry of activity in their offensive third, but they either didn’t have anyone on the weak side to finish their crosses or Sentinel’s defenders won races to through balls.
“We’ve just got to play better balls to our forwards and not make it such a footrace between their speed and our speed,” Warnell said.
The first half was all Sentinel as the Spartans were flying high after earning a draw against unbeaten Helena in their previous game.
“We picked up some momentum in our last game against Helena High and they continued it today,” Grasky said. “I think they’re playing more composed and stronger, so it was the perfect time of the season to start clicking.”
Libby Walker opened the scoring in the 14th minute, cutting across the edge of the 18-yard box, receving a pass from Lexi Steele and putting her third touch past Pietron.
The Spartans added their second goal in the 29th minute when Ellie Jones’ corner kick ricocheted off a Flathead defender and into the net.
“Sentinel came out and put a lot of pressure on us right from the get-go,” Warnell said. “They pretty much controlled the first half on us. To only be down 2-0, I was fairly happy with that with the kind of pressure they put on us.”
Sentinel defeated Flathead 2-1 when the teams met in Missoula earlier this season.
Sentinel 2 0 — 2
Flathead 0 0 — 0
SENTINEL — Libby Walker (Lexi Steele), 14:00; Ellie Jones, 29:00
Shots on goal — Sentinel 15, Flathead 15. Goalie saves — Sentinel 7 (Jessica Henning), Flathead 7 (Payton Pietron). Corner kicks — Sentinel 5, Flathead 5. Fouls — Sentinel 4, Flathead 2. Cards — None.
Sentinel 4, Flathead 1
Sentinel (3-7-0) scored twice in the second half to put away Flathead (0-9-1) in a game between two struggling teams.
The Spartans controlled most of the possession, but didn’t break through until the 39th minute when Dylan Leadbetter one-touched a cross from Trevor Powell past Flathead goalkeeper Clark Seaman.
Sentinel struck again shortly after halftime when Erik Deiwert made a run up the right flank and played a ball into the middle to Adam Mickelson, who beat Seaman low to the far post.
In the 45th minute, Flathead’s Caleb Buxton drew a foul in the penalty area and Monte White converted the penalty kick to put the Braves on the board.
Flathead didn’t create much else offensively in the next 20 minutes as the Braves played several long balls which resulted in giveaways.
“Nine times out of 10 that’s unsuccessful,” Flathead coach Chris Putzler said. “To be successful you have to attack as a unit, you can’t just have solo guys and you can’t just ping the ball over the top and hope that one guy can do it.”
The Braves appeared to get on the same page as the half wore on and created a couple chances late, a cross into the 6-yard box that was headed away in the 75th minute and a free kick that sailed over the net from 30 yards out in the 77th minute.
While Flathead failed to finish its late chances, Sentinel converted with goals in the 75th and 79th minutes. Mickelson scored his second goal of the game to put the Spartans ahead 3-1, then Powell found the back of the net to conclude the scoring.
“What I did like as that half progressed, even though we didn’t score, we started having a group involved in the attack,” Putzler said. “We had three or four guys pushed up toward the end of the game.”
Flathead lost its previous meeting with Sentinel 5-1 in Missoula.
“I think we played better today than we did last time, especially in the first half,” Putzler said. “We had a little bit of possession in the first half. The second half I don’t think we played well at all and the game got physical and got away from both teams really.
“I can’t say we played a great game and I can’t say we played a horrible game.”
Flathead hosts Helena Capital on Friday.
Sentinel 1 3 — 4
Flathead 0 1 — 1
SENTINEL — Dylan Leadbetter (Trevor Powell), 39:00; Adam Mickelson, Erik Deiwert, 42:00; Mickelson, 75:00; Trevor Powell, Mickelson, 79:00
FLATHEAD — Monte White, penalty kick, 45:00
Shots on goal — Sentinel 19, Flathead 9. Goalie saves — Sentinel 6 (Tanner Maier), Flathead 13 (Clark Seaman). Corner kicks — Sentinel 5, Flathead 2. Fouls — Sentinel 11, Flathead 9. Cards — Sentinel 3 yellow, Flathead 1, yellow.
Flathead’s Monte White (20) scores the Braves’ only goal on a penalty kick Saturday afternoon in a Western AA match with Missoula Sentinel at Kidsports Complex.