STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
BURNET — Burnet High School head girls soccer coach Matthew Russell wasn’t surprised by his team’s lopsided 8-0 win over Jarrell in a bi-district championship March 29.
However, he was amazed by the fact the Lady Dawgs (15-5-1, 6-2 in District 26-4A) had a 6-0 lead by halftime.
“They always had it,” he said. “From the captains and through the pregame speech, you have to go in and earn every win and goal and take it one game at a time.”
Burnet senior forward Savannah McHam scored five goals, four in the first half, while freshman midfielder Haley McHam, Savannah’s sister, scored twice, and senior midfielder Jennifer Martinez rounded out the total.
Next up for the Lady Dawgs in the Class 4A playoffs is Boerne with site, date, and time to be determined.
Russell said that, in his 11 years of coaching, he hasn’t worked with a player quite like the senior forward.
“Savannah is one of a kind,” he said. “You don’t see that quality skill level in (every) player. She put the team on her back.”
He also credited junior forward Kinley Beyer, an assists leader, who has embraced scoring fewer goals herself in an effort to help her teammates score more. Though Beyer didn’t have an assist during the playoff win, that didn’t mean she didn’t contribute, Russell said.
“She makes plays on the field to open players up for us,” he said.
Russell noted that the Lady Dawgs played Jarrell early in the season and won 9-0. His concern wasn’t that his squad would dominate from start to finish; it was that they’d take Jarrell lightly. However, McHam changed his mind 3 minutes 33 seconds into the contest when she scored the first goal. After that, the goals came in bunches, virtually every three-four minutes as an offensive avalanche quickly took Jarrell out of its game plan. It had no answer for Savannah McHam or the Lady Dawgs defense.
The coach credited the defense and junior goalie Jordan Bevans for the shutout. This is the first year Bevans has played a team sport. She spent the regular season on the junior varsity squad.
“I’ve been working with her one on one for a week and a half,” Russell said. “She stepped up. She’s relentless; she’s fearless. She collided with girls from the other team and kept playing tough.”
The coach didn’t have to seek out Bevans: She wanted to try out for the program. What he saw then was a player who had a skill set that worked well for the junior varsity, but one performance convinced him that Bevans needed to be moved up.
It happened in a tuneup against Wimberley on March 19. Burnet took a 1-0 lead within 15 seconds of the start of the game but later trailed 4-1. Russell then put Bevans in at goalie.
She demonstrated much of the same things against Wimberley that she showed against Jarrell: she coming off the line quickly, challenging shooters, and making it very difficult for the Texanns to score. Meanwhile, the Lady Dawgs offense closed the gap to make it 4-3 at the half.
Wimberley eventually won 7-3, but Russell saw something in Bevans.
“That fearlessness is what sold me,” he said. “That’s what got us fired up and got the team going.”
In the days leading up to the start of the playoffs, the coach and goalie worked together to fine-tune her instincts by putting her through a series of situations to help her better defend the goal.
“We focused on her weak points and built up her confidence,” he said.
In addition to winning the team’s first playoff game of the 2018 season, the Lady Dawgs also gave their head coach his first playoff victory in 11 years. This is Russell’s first season at Burnet.
“I owe it to the hard work and dedication of these young ladies,” he said.