Goals win games, boys soccer head coach John Lacey likes to say, and early in the season, the defending state champs aren’t having any issues with scoring goals.
The Bulldogs are 2-0 after their opening week, taking down Columbia Falls 5-2 and Livingston-Park 6-1.
Ian Lacey found the net first for the team during their home opener last Tuesday against the Wildcats.
Lacey found the goal twice in the first five minutes to put the Dogs ahead early.
Sam Menicke found the net in the 32nd minute off a Brendon Mendoza assist to finish the first half 3-0. Marvin Kimera got the second half going with a Casey Schneider-assisted goal less than five minutes into the second half, and Schneider followed that with his own goal 12 minutes later.
Niels Getts of Columbia Falls scored the team’s two goals in the final 12 minutes.
Whitefish led the Cats 19 to 7 in shots on goal and 5 to 1 on saves.
Then on Friday the team traveled to Livingston.
Lacey again got the scoring started in the 11th minute off a Chase Sabin assist.
Schneider followed that up with the first of his two goals six minutes later to put the Dogs up 2-0 going into the half.
The offense got hot in the second half, with both Sam Menicke and Gabe Menicke hitting goals in the 50th and 57th minute. Lacey and Schneider both notched their second goals of the match in the 58th and 63rd minute.
Park’s Ryan Brown got his team on the scoreboard in the 73rd minute to avoid the shutout.
Whitefish again had 19 shots on goal to Park’s 3. Goalies Colter Upton and Bradlee Anderson combined for a pair of saves.
Head coach John Lacey says he can’t complain about how his team is performing early on.
“There’s obviously a lot to like about two wins,” he said. “We’re still continuing to press for goals. We start fast and we really try to play fast through the games. We want those goals early, and we’re doing that well. I think we’re still moving the ball well. The guys are just pretty dialed in with what we do and now it’s just going out to execute.”
If he had to point to anything to improve upon, he says it’d be finishing out their wins.
In both the Columbia Falls game and the Park game, the Dogs conceded late goals.
“One thing we need to work on is there is this aspect of closing out games. We’ve dropped goals in the last few minutes of both of our first two games. As good as I feel about getting out ahead, we need to play a full 80 minutes,” he said. “I don’t want us giving up goals. When you give up a goal you don’t go home with the same excitement you had when you started.”
On Tuesday the team battled Bigfork after press time. On Friday they’ll host Laurel at 5 p.m. Then they’ll turn around and take on Billings Central at 3 p.m. the following day. Both games are at Smith Fields.
Both of the weekend games could be a look at future playoff matchups, Lacey says, as the Dogs have faced off with both Laurel and Billings in the postseason in recent years.
The back-to-back is going to test his team’s fitness as well, and he’s excited to see how his roster handles it.
“Laurel in particular is a really mature team, they’ve got about 10 or 12 seniors on their roster. I’m looking forward to those matches. We just want to keep building that speed of play and get everybody involved,” he said. “We’ve been really fortunate these first couple games that we’ve been able to go almost 20-deep in terms of playing time. Having back-to-back games should allow us to tap into that depth.”
Whitefish 2 4 — 6
Park 0 1 — 1
W — Ian Lacey (Chase Sabin) 11:00
W — Casey Schneider (Josh Gunderson) 17:00
W — Sam Menicke (PK) 50:00
W — Gabe Menicke (Schneider) 57:00
W — Lacey (Schneider) 58:00
W — Schneider (Aaron Dicks) 63:00
P — Ryan Brown 73:00
Shots on goal — Whitefish 19, Park 3; Goalie saves — Whitefish 2 (Colter Upton, Bradlee Anderson), Park 16 (Gage Bober); Corner kicks— Whitefish 9, Park 1; Fouls — Whitefish 5, Park 5; Cards — Whitefish (yellow).
Columbia Falls 0 2 — 2
Whitefish 3 2 — 5
W — Ian Lacey (Brandon Mendoza), 1:00
W — Lacey, 5:00
W — Sam Menicke (Mendoza), 32:00
W — Marvin Kimera (Casey Schneider), 44:00
W — Schneider (Menicke), 56:00
CF — Niels Getts, 69:00
CF — Getts (Simon Magg), 78:00
Shots on goal — Columbia Falls 7, Whitefish 19; Corner kicks — Columbia Falls 2, Whitefish 4; Goalie saves — Columbia Falls (Story Stemborski), Whitefish 5 (Colter Upton); Fouls — NA; Cards — None.