Lady Horns Skunked By Blue Ridge

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A 3-0 loss to the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets wasn't the season's start coach Joe Schmidt was hoping for.

But the defeat to the team's longtime East region rival is exactly what unfolded Sept. 2 at Rumsey Park.

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Skye McNeeley, left, blocks a Blue Ridge player as she fights for control of the ball during a 3A match at Rumsey field Tuesday, Sept. 2.

The coach might have known going into the game, the clash was going to be a challenge, mostly because his squad was shorthanded.

"I did not allow 12 players to play due to violating team practice policies," he said. "I held out a few more who were too hurt to practice."

Schmidt decided to discipline the players because, "I need to resolve this (missing practice) before the season went any further."

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Kyndel Lann, behind the Blue Ridge player, makes certain the ball doesn't get past her as she leaps higher than her opponent during the first half of play at Rumsey field Sept. 2.

Without many of the seasoned varsity players to call upon, Schmidt brought replacements up from the junior varsity team.

"They played substantial amounts of time and well at the varsity level," he said.

Following the game, the coach lauded Candice Ayers, Becca Branstetter and Kendall Lann.

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Becca Branstetter fights off a Blue Ridge Yellow Jacket Tuesday evening, Sept. 2 at the soccer field in Rumsey Park during a varsity game.

"Candice was outstanding at goalkeeper and Becca and Kendall were very solid in the middle of the defense," he said.

Playing shorthanded wasn't as costly to this year's team as it would have been last season when Schmidt had to scramble for competent players to fill out the roster.

This season, he has 14 returning veterans and 15 talented sophomores to call upon.

Also, the loss to Blue Ridge, as hard as it was to absorb, wasn't totally unexpected. The Yellow Jackets were one of the teams that Schmidt predicted weeks ago would be a region and state championship contender.

The coach also said in preseason that a team goal was to beat Blue Ridge and earn an advantageous seed to the state tournament.

The Lady Horns will have another opportunity to take the sting out of the Jackets Oct. 14 when the two teams collide in Lakeside.

The Lady Horns travel to Show Low today, Sept. 5 for the Cougar Invitational. The tournament wraps up tomorrow.

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