Davis, Bulldogs focused on balance

Palisade’s Flannery Davis is used to scoring goals, but has altered her game as opponents are noticing. The Bulldogs face Moffat County at 7 tonight at Walker Field.

Cruz Vela is making an impact this season as a freshman with the Bulldogs, scoring four goals heading into tonight’s game with Moffat County.

Flannery Davis doesn’t go unnoticed any more.

The Palisade High School junior scored 37 goals in her first two seasons of high school soccer, and helped lead the Bulldogs to the Class 4A postseason in back-to-back seasons after a seven-year playoff drought.

This season, opponents always know where Davis is.

“Unfortunately teams have figured out who I am, and that has meant double and triple teams,” Davis said. “But if I have two girls on me there has to be someone else open.”

The Bulldogs (2-4-1, 2-0-1 Western Slope League) have surrounded Davis, a center midfielder, with a core of underclassmen who have developed into viable offensive options.

Forwards Cruz Vela, a freshman, and sophomore Courtney Clark lead the Bulldogs with four goals each. Palisade also has sophomore Natalie Combs, who is scoreless this season, but had five goals last season. With those three players establishing themselves, Davis has become more of a distributor for the Bulldogs, currently leading the team with five assists.

“Now that there are more options I still like to be aggressive on goal, but I know I can give it away more,” Davis said. “I have to be a playmaker, and scoring is part of it, but I have to find the open player.”

Palisade coach Raina Sorensen said the Bulldogs have tinkered with their offensive approach, knowing how much firepower they have at the top.

“We are trying to get the girls to use the outsides because we were trying to go down the middle and weren’t getting as many opportunities,” Sorensen said. “So we’ve been trying to use the outside midfielders of Megan Crawford and Micah Fowler to get the ball out, then get it right back in where we have four girls who know how to score goals.”

The surprise of the group has been the freshman Vela. She scored her first goal of the season March 22 against Battle Mountain, and since that game, has added three more goals in the past four games.

“Cruz has a great touch,” Sorensen said. “She knows how to finish, which is something you can’t always teach.”

Although only in her first year of high school soccer, Vela has been playing the sport for 10 years. Vela said she’s excited about the Bulldogs’ ability to score.

“We are a very strong offensive team,” Vela said. “We all work really well together.”

The Bulldogs made the postseason last year as a No. 16 seed and hosted a home game against No. 17 Evergreen, which they lost 3-1.

Palisade has set the bar to make it at least that far. “The expectation is to do at least as much as we did last year,” Sorensen said. “We have a group of kids that we should at least be making playoffs with, but we need to play with confidence and have consistency from every player on the team.”

Palisade started the season with six games in a month, but now goes on a stretch where it plays six games in 14 days. The Bulldogs dropped both games this past weekend to Durango and Montezuma-Cortez, and are looking to bounce back at 7 tonight against Moffat County at Walker Field.

“(The games) were so spread out in the beginning and now they are one right after another,” Davis said. “I hope it’ll help get us in really good shape.”


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