BHS Girls soccer v. CMR (copy)

Bozeman freshman Olivia Collins works against Great Falls CMR’s Lily Rust on Friday at Bozeman Sports Park.

Riley Asbell planted herself in front of Great Falls CMR’s defense and turned her back to the goal. She faced her Bozeman teammates who looked to pass her the ball. The positioning was planned to set up a specific type of attack.

Asbell received a pass at her feet and drew defensive attention. Then Payton Putnam darted around her and into the box. So Asbell passed her the ball with her heel in one fluid motion rather than turning around to pass with the inside of her foot.

Putnam dribbled in the box and coolly scored to put the Hawks up two goals in the 38th minute.

“I saw Payton making that run, and I decided that the only way I could get it there was heel pass,” Asbell said. “I thought it was the best option to get it there.”

In Bozeman’s 7-0 win against CMR on Friday at Bozeman Sports Park, Asbell’s pass and Putnam’s off-ball cut symbolized the deft offense the Hawks (7-1-3, 6-1-3 Eastern AA) leaned on. Freshman Olivia Collins scored a hat trick, the first three goals of her varsity career, while four other players scored a goal each. Sami Murphy finished with two assists and Bozeman imposed its style on the Rustlers.

Collins broke the deadlock in the 27th minute off an assist from Addi Ekstrom. Putnam’s goal was the turning point in a game headed decidedly in the Hawks’ favor in every way early on except for the score. Then came five second-half goals to turn it into a blowout.

“The combination play was terrific. I thought we were finding each other’s feet,” Hawks head coach Erika Cannon said. “We were getting used to the (artificial turf) and we were just able to connect with each other and help each other out.”

bhs girls soccer v cmr

Bozeman junior Addi Ekstrom goes up against Great Falls CMR’s Aspen Lucero on Friday at Bozeman Sports Park.

Throughout the season, Bozeman has worked on shifting together defensively as a team in order to keep the ball in the attacking third. When they forced CMR to kick the ball out of bounds while under pressure, players and coaches on the bench cheered. Their offense was programmed to take advantage of those opportunities.

That pressing style worked about as well as possible. Bozeman’s players have grown more comfortable with each other, learning tendencies and figuring out how to play off each other as they transition from defense to offense.

That factored into Asbell’s effective passes with her back to the goal and when Collins scored the first goal of the game off a pass from Ekstrom inside the box.

“(We were) talking and working together mostly,” Asbell said, “so we’re all on the same page, when to step and squeeze.”

That squeeze led to isolating defenders and creating numbers advantages. The Hawks often set up situations in which the Rustlers only had one defender to cover two or three players at once.

No one took advantage as often as Collins, who began practicing with the varsity team just two weeks ago. Cannon intentionally had her begin the season on junior varsity to build confidence, and after she adjusted to playing in high school, she was pulled up to the top group.

“She definitely is ready for this level. She did a great job today,” Cannon said. “We were really impressed by her composure in front of goal and also just playing and combining with other teammates.”

BHS Girls soccer v. CMR (copy)

Bozeman sophomore Maggie Lane takes the ball in after a penalty kick on Friday at Bozeman Sports Park.

After CMR’s defense had already been punctured five times, Collins took advantage in the final 10 minutes. First, Meredith Luckay passed a through ball to her, Collins took a touch to weave around the goalie and rocketed a shot into the open net.

Nine minutes later, Murphy led Collins and the freshman slotted the ball home for the third time.

“Out of all the hat tricks I have had, it’s probably the best one,” Collins said, “because I’m a freshman and playing on varsity is pretty cool. I love this team. They’re all such amazing players.”

In the second half, Rustlers head coach Josh Horton explained to his players that they were leaving too much room in front of their back line.

That open space was exactly where Asbell, Collins and the rest of the Hawks thrived.

“That was probably the best game of the season that I’ve seen so far,” Collins said.

Paul Schwedelson can be reached at or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.