Feller scores early goal, adds another late in Bulldogs’ win
Sami Feller’s first goal of the game against Steamboat Springs on Thursday is one she didn’t expect to get. It turned out to be the only one the Palisade High School girls soccer team needed.
That goal, which trickled out of the arms of Steamboat goalkeeper Leah Rowse and across the goal line, gave the Bulldogs the lead for good and was one of two goals the Palisade junior scored in its 2-0 Class 4A Western Slope League victory at Walker Field.
“I hit it as hard as I could and took a swing at it, and I turned around because I didn’t think it was going in,” Feller said with a smile. “Then I heard someone yell ‘follow’ and saw it went in. That was a big surprise. I didn’t expect that.”
It’s safe to say the Bulldogs (8-1, 8-1 WSL) are finding all kinds of ways to score. Their 38 goals on the season is ranked among the classification’s top 10, with Feller’s 19 goals in nine games ranking her among the best in 4A.
Because of that, Palisade owns a two-game cushion in the league standings with six games to play. The Bulldogs were only ranked No. 18 in the Colorado High School Activities Association’s RPI standings headed into the game but have a chance to vault into the Top 10 by the end of the season.
But before the Bulldogs square off against future opponents like Mullen and Fruita Monument that have higher RPI ratings, they’re choosing to focus on what’s immediately ahead of them.
“We never really look ahead and only focus on the game that’s immediately in front of us,” said Palisade’s Lexi Newton, who assisted Feller’s second goal. “Like this Saturday we have Montrose coming up, and then we’ll focus on whatever’s after that.”
Sarah Cordova and Reannon Baskin split time in goal to give the Bulldogs their fourth shutout of the season. They faced a handful of scoring opportunities by Steamboat (5-8, 5-6) while the rest of the team stayed aggressive, which gave the Bulldogs a 15-3 edge in total shots.
Still, Steamboat stayed aggressive and disruptive on defense, challenging Palisade players for possession despite spending much of the game up against their own goal.
“They’re very well organized and very well coached, and it took a while for us to really break through their defense,” Palisade coach Tim Hofer said. “The first half we struggled to get through, but we made enough adjustments at halftime for us to generate more opportunities.”
Feller, who has verbally committed to play college soccer at Arizona State, took advantage of her scoring opportunity with 29 minutes, 29 seconds remaining in the first half. Her shot from 20 yards away off a pass from Emma Mueller skipped across the Walker Field turf and into the arms of Rowse, but it rolled up and over her body and slowly rolled into the net before the Steamboat goalkeeper could recover.
Steamboat had a chance at an equalizer eight minutes later when freshman Katy Floyd got behind Palisade’s defense for a breakaway opportunity. She kicked the ball too far ahead, however, and Cordova slide-kicked the ball away while halting Floyd’s run on the net to end the threat.
A direct-kick shot from Steamboat’s Delaney Moon was knocked away from Baskin and cleared on the right side of the goal box by Feller in the 48th minute. Twenty-three minutes later, Moon got another direct kick chance from nearly the same spot when Baskin arm tackled Steamboat’s Lucy Wilson — drawing a yellow card — in front of the goal box while going after the ball. Moon’s shot, however, hit Palisade’s defensive wall, and the Sailors didn’t get another shot off the rest of the game.
That’s when Feller capped the scoring, taking a pass from Newton. Feller’s shot from 25 yards out skipped past the outstretched hands of Rowse, off the goal post and into the net with a little more than four minutes remaining.
“She finds ways to put her shots on frame,” Hofer said. “And when you get shots on frame and the keeper makes a mistake, good things happen.”