MONTESANO — As many times Montesano and Elma have faced each other in girls soccer, there are comebacks to be a part of and to be on the wrong side of. Tuesday night’s contest was one of those times.
Elma took control in the first half with a 2-0 lead at halftime. In the second half, Montesano’s Samantha Stanfield registered a hat trick to power a Bulldog comeback for a 3-2 victory in Evergreen 1A League play at Rottle Field.
Brooke Sutherby scored for Elma (0-1, 5-3), which got an own goal from Montesano (1-0, 5-2-2) as well.
“That was an interesting game,” Montesano head coach Mike Malpass said. “In the first half, we never tested the goalkeeper. In the second half, the girls played with more intensity, playing hard. This is a massive win for us. The girls showed a lot of good character tonight.”
“It was a great first half; we contained Stanfield the best we could, but in the second half, she became more of a threat,” Elma head coach Scott Rockey said. “She had some great shots. The girls played strong and played hard. This was a game we were looking forward to. We knew this would be a tough game and it was.”
Elma’s game plan was to shadow and neutralize Stanfield, while keeping pressure on the rest of Montesano’s squad. A 1-0 lead in the third minute helped its progress.
A long ball bounced over Montesano’s defense and onto the foot of Sutherby, who slid the ball past Monte goalkeeper Haylee Perkinson for the goal.
The remainder of the first half was a crisp, well-played affair mostly contested in the midfield. Both teams had a few runs, while Elma threatened late in the half with a few well-placed free kicks.
Just before the stroke of halftime, the Eagles were given a 2-0 lead. On a through ball pass aimed for forward Molly Johnston on the run, a Montesano defender tried to clear it. However, the ball spun off her leg and rolled into the net for an own goal.
Johnston nearly gave Elma a 3-0 lead early in the second half, which could have turned the match’s momentum permanently in favor of the Eagles.
Johnston fought off a Monte defender for a bouncing ball inside the penalty area and got a foot onto it for a shot. The ball beat Perkinson, but it didn’t have enough steam. Perkinson galliantly leaped for the ball, keeping it out of the goal to preserve the scoreline.
The Bulldogs, according to Malpass, brought up another player up front to help spread out of the Eagles’ defense to create more possession. However, the first and third goals were nearly identical in set-up, style and execution on set pieces.
On a Montesano free kick at midfield, defender Annie Cristelli booted the ball up to Stanfield, who settled the ball 22 yards from goal. She turned, fired the shot and watched the ball sail into the upper-left corner of the net.
In the 57th minute, Stanfield’s shot hit the crossbar and fell straight down across the goal line for the goal. In the 67th minute, the game-winning goal evaded goalkeeper Holli Ray into the corner.
“Three goals and all of them were great; if you get just one like that, that is great, but wow,” Malpass said. “(The free kicks) kind of developed as it went. Those were good, very nice.”
The tying goal came in the 60th minute when Ray misplayed a goal kick that went straight to Stanfield, who took one touch to control it and another to fire the ball low into the lower right corner of an empty net at 2-2.
Johnston had two chances for Elma to tie the match in the final seven-plus minutes. The first came on a free kick that was sent back high into the Montesano penalty area. Johnston headed the ball across the goal, where Perkinson smothered it. The sophomore forward’s last attempt came in extra time when her 18-yard shot sailed just over the crossbar.
On Thursday, Montesano hits the road at Tenino. Elma will host Tenino next Tuesday.