Searching for a spark

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Sailors girls soccer coach Jim Dudley thinks the Sailors offense might enjoy a little more elbow room up front.

That doesn't mean the team will be taking a bigger bus to its next road game, but the team will drop another player back into the defensive set on a regular basis, making things a little less congested on the offensive side of the soccer field.

"Things were just too crowded up front," the Sailors head coach said. "I think by returning to a system with a stopper we will make the most effective use of our personnel."

The change marks the return to a system the Sailors used for many years. It also means Jessica Johnson will return to the stopper role. At the start of the season, the Sailors dropped the stopper in favor of moving another player up front to the offensive side and hopefully producing more goals.

Dudley said the idea was a good one, but instead of producing more goals, the system stifled some of his better players because there wasn't enough room.

The Sailors have been alternating between the two systems the last few weeks and the number of goals per game has remained pretty consistent.

"Our defense has been playing unbelievably well," Dudley said. "But we were not seeing a huge difference in our offensive output."

Steamboat is 3-1 in conference play and 7-4 overall.

The team downed Glenwood Springs for the second time this season last Saturday in a 2-0 contest.

"It was a very big game," Steamboat's Julie Wernig said. "If we had lost the game it would have really hurt our playoff chances. We can't lose to any team right now if we want to make it to state."

Wernig netted the team's first goal about 33 minutes into the contest. She got a nice crossing pass from Nikki Garth. Wernig never broke stride as she pounded the ball with her left foot through the outreached fingertips of the Glenwood goalkeeper.

"I can shoot with both of my feet, but I normally use my right foot," Wernig said. "But the pass was perfect and the ball was moving just right, so I went ahead and hit it."

"It was the prettiest goal we've had this season," Dudley said.

Steamboat added to the lead about four minutes into the second half.

Jessica Fritz took a nice pass from Jill Wernig and pounded it into the back of the net.

Steamboat has two key conference games coming up, including a showdown with conference-leading Rifle April 20 at the high school. That game will start at 4 p.m.

"Everything is building up to that Rifle game," Julie Wernig said. "We can't look past anybody, but I think everyone on the team is thinking about Rifle right now."

Steamboat lost to the Bears 1-0 in the team's last meeting and the Sailors will look to avenge the loss, Dudley said.

If the weather cooperates the game will be played at Steamboat Springs High School.

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