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M-CHS downs Bayfield in season opener

Mahler nets two in Lady Panthers’ 3-1 win
Bayfield sophomore Anna Vasgird clashes with Montezuma-Cortez’s Halee Kibel (23) for possession during the teams season-opener Wednesday at M-CHS. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

CORTEZ – Less than 60 seconds after seeing freshman Sydney Rey’s breakaway chance denied by Montezuma-Cortez goalkeeper Aubrey Rutherford, Bayfield senior Mattie Moore managed to regain possession and deny the fellow 3A Southwestern Leaguers a season-opening shutout by beating the goalie low and to her left in the 79th minute.

Moore’s own breakaway – an unchecked 50-yard sprint, product of a perfect Abria Thayer through-ball in the 73rd-minute – was blocked by Rutherford, M-CHS freshman backup behind senior Olivia Cosner. And when she did score, it was too little, too late on Wednesday as the hosting Lady Panthers’ three first-half goals proved too many to overcome.

Bayfield freshman Kambrie Byrd attempts to win a ball while leaping over a Montezuma-Cortez player during the teams' season opener Wednesday at M-CHS. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

“We’ve got some stuff to work on,” said Montezuma-Cortez head coach Reese Smith. “Gave up an easy goal at the end, but it happens. ... Our conditioning needs to be worked on, but overall I’m very proud of the girls. I think it’s on to greater things.”

“Fitness for sure; that’s our number one thing we’re going to work on, so we can keep our best players on the field and stuff like that,” said freshman forward Jordlan ‘Jordi’ Mahler, who, cashed in a fourth-minute rebound of a teammate’s try initially saved by BHS senior Annie Fusco.

Montezuma-Cortez’s Anna Jensen dribbles past Bayfield’s Sydney Rey during the teams’ season opener Wednesday at M-CHS. Jensen would score one goal in the Panthers’ 3-1 win. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Mahler struck again in the 16th, with a shot set up by one of M-CHS’ seven first-half corner kicks.

“I mean, I was surprised!” she said, of the Panthers’ fast start. “But it was awesome.”

“Jordi’s fantastic,” Smith said. “We’ve got to get her open more, give her more space; I think she could have got more.”

Bayfield senior Mattie Moore wards off Montezuma-Cortez’s Anna Jensen during the teams' season opener Wednesday at M-CHS. Moore and Jensen scored once. M-CHS prevailed 3-1. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Sophomore Anna Jensen then put Montezuma-Cortez (1-0, 1-0 3A SWL) up 3-0 in the 29th by lifting a shot to the far side, over known volleyball standout Fusco’s back shoulder.

“This is our first team in a while, you know, and our first win in three years,” Mahler said, alluding to the fact that because of pandemic and participation issues, M-CHS had not suited up a girls squad in spring 2020 or 2021. The Lady Panthers program had thus not logged a victory since defeating Bayfield 2-1 on April 30, 2019. “It feels great.”

Bayfield girls soccer head coach Chris Zoltowski rapidly reviews a scheme with Lady Wolverine seniors Emaliah Sawyer, right, and Mattie Moore prior to BHS' season-opening match Wednesday at Montezuma-Cortez. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

“I’m just happy that they’re out. It’s been three years since they’ve played,” said Smith, who also saluted senior Allie Kibel’s work on defense. “I’m happy with the numbers, and even if we’d lost I’m just glad that they came out and had fun.”

Montezuma-Cortez's Jordlan Mahler directs the ball past Bayfield goalkeeper Annie Fusco and into the net for the first goal in the teams' season-opener Wednesday at M-CHS. Mahler scored twice in the Panthers' 3-1 win. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Up next, M-CHS will host 2A Ridgway at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Bayfield’s March 11 season opener versus 2A Center was canceled after CHS decided to not field a team. Center ultimately chose to merge with 2A Del Norte. Bayfield’s game against Ignacio was also rescheduled from March 12 to April 13, so the Wolverines (0-1, 0-1 3A SWL) won’t see action again until they host Manitou Springs on April 1.

Chris Zoltowski’s Lady Wolverines will then venture to Colorado Springs for a 3 p.m. test the next afternoon at James Irwin. The charter school is named after U.S. Air Force Col. James Benson Irwin (1930-1991), who walked on the moon as part of NASA’s Apollo 15 mission, and would have turned 92 on March 17.

Lady ‘Cats hungry for more:

After their season-opening 8-2 rout of Del Norte on Tuesday, Ignacio (1-0, 1-0 2A Southwestern) will return to action Friday against Ridgway. Kickoff at IHS Field is set for 4 p.m. The match had been slated to be held at Ridgway, but with the Lady Demons’ pitch still buried by snow, the game was moved south.

The teams’ second go-round will now be on April 23 at RHS.

After hosting Ridgway, Alisha Gullion’s crew will hit the road early Saturday to play 2A Telluride.

Against Del Norte (0-2, 0-1 2A SWL), sophomore Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga and junior Laci Brunson, making her debut in the sport, each recorded hat tricks. Mendoza-Lechuga scored goals in the 7th, 48th, 56th minutes while Brunson scored in the 16th, 55th and 59th. Senior Alexis Pontine – who’d netted a hatter against the Lady Tigers late last season – scored in the 15th and 72nd.

Replacing the graduated Emily Cundiff, junior keeper Harmony Reynolds – also making her debut – earned the win.

“They weren’t ready to … take their pressure off or anything; they were ready to go,” Gullion said. “Not even at halftime did they get out of the ‘game’ mindset.”