The Lady Indians opened the 4A District 5 soccer tournament at home against Pocatello on Oct.8. They host the winner of Tuesday’s Game 3 on Thursday, Oct. 15 at 4 p.m., in a battle for the district title and the only state berth for District 5.
They go into the game as the favorite having beat both Pocatello and Century multiple times already this season but anything can happen in tournaments. If the girls win, they claim the district title and punch their ticket to state. A loss would not eliminate the Indians but would force a Game 5 where the same teams would play again on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 11 a.m.
Preston scored three times in an eight-minute stretch of the first half en route to a 5-2 victory over second-seeded Pocatello on Oct. 8. Each team prevailed by one goal at home during the regular season, but the Franklin County Indians made sure it wouldn’t be a nailbiter this time around as they stormed out to a 5-0 lead.
Their goal was to get a decisive victory to assert their dominance and sow seeds of doubt in their opponent in preparation for Thursday’s game. In the process, Preston extended its winning streak to three and netted at least three goals for the third straight match.
“That’s what we’ve been waiting for,” Preston head coach Brandon Lyon said. “It’s what we’ve just been building toward and, you know, we’ve had a hard time scoring goals throughout the course of the year. It’s really been up and down, but we’ve told the girls there’s going to be a breakthrough. That breakthrough is coming. We’re too talented for it to not come ... but the girls have been working so hard.”
As well as Preston played (9-6-0), it was Pocatello (7-7-2) that got off to a strong solid as the visitors earned a pair of corner kicks and sent in a few dangerous balls in the early going. However, Preston was able to quickly turn the tide and put relentless pressure on Poky for the lion’s share of the final 30 minutes of the opening half.
The hosts found the back of the net three times during that timespan. The floodgates opened when Aspen Jensen chested in an Abigail Lyon corner kick in the 21st minute. It was Lyon’s fourth corner of the half and she adeptly whipped all of them right into the heart of the 6-yard box.
“I take a lot (of pride in that), but I also take a lot of pride in my team,” Abigail Lyon said when asked about her accuracy on corner kicks. “They’re the ones who get it in the goal; they’re the ones who work hard. I just play the ball in, so it’s both of us. It’s not just me. It’s a team effort.”
The hosts struck again three minutes later when Addison Moser buried a penalty kick after getting taken down from behind in the box. Preston’s lead ballooned to 3-0 with 11 minutes remaining in the half courtesy of a 35-yard free kick by standout center back, Kylie Larsen.
Preston outshot Pocatello 10-1 during the final 30 minutes of the half.
Preston terminated any chance of a Pocatello comeback early in the second half. Freshman Ella Jeppsen sent in a lovely cross that Andie Bell finished from point blank range 45 minutes in. Bell, an all-state cross country runner, completely dominated the match from her outside midfielder position for large chunks of play Thursday.
“What she can bring on the outside - I don’t know if we’ve had a player that can do that, attack like that, but at the same time be able to defend like that,” coach Lyon said. “And the crazy thing is she’s battling a quad injury. She’s only been playing about every other game, so conditioning wise she’s not what normal Andie is.”
Abigail Lyon gave Preston a 5-0 advantage 10 minutes later on a beautiful 30-yard kick free that tucked just under the crossbar. All five of Preston’s goals were scored by different players, which is noteworthy when you consider Moser is the team’s leading goal scorer by 16.
“Just for us to work as a team together and just finally come together, and for it to click like that, just feels awesome,” said Jensen, who shined in her central midfield role. “We buried them.”
Pocatello defender Kjerstin Bunderson showcased her skill by burying two 40-plus-yard free kicks during the final 10 minutes of the match. Nevertheless, it was an outstanding defensive performance by Preston’s back three of Larsen, Taya Nielson and Mickayla Robertson, who held Poky to zero shots on goal during the run of play in the game.
“Big, big props to them,” said coach Lyon, whose side is one victory away from securing its spot in the 4A State Championships.