“When I came in I told them that there would be a few things that would be different. But I wasn’t here to change any good things,” Campbell said. “The things that are good, I wanted to keep.
“There are so many traditions on this team I can’t keep them straight. I think the consistency with those traditions has helped make the transition a little bit smoother.”
Their biggest tradition is winning, and the Rams (14-0-0) will try to capture their sixth consecutive Class A state championship Saturday when they host Whitefish (12-2-0) at 11 a.m. at Wendy’s Field at Rocky Mountain College.
Campbell took over for longtime coach Laurie Stergar, who built the program into a juggernaut the previous eight seasons. Though this is Campbell’s first go-round as coach, she’s sustained it. And Central’s players — including five seniors — know what it takes to close out matches at this time of year.
“I think being here before has a big impact on it. We know what to expect,” said senior midfielder Becca Shipp. “It’ll be stressful, but it’s a good kind of nervous. The nerves prepare us and help us feel ready to play.”
The Rams advanced to the championship match with a 5-0 victory over Polson in the first round, and a 2-1 win over Hamilton in the semis last week.
“Last week was a really tough match for us,” Shipp said. “We gave ourselves a couple of hours to celebrate but we knew we had to refocus right away because this is a huge match. Whitefish is a really talented, hard-working team.”
Whitefish boasts two of the top scorers in Class A in freshman Haley Nicholson (18 goals, 7 assists) and sophomore Anna Peterson (10g, 9a). The Bulldogs beat Livingston in the first round and Frenchtown in the semifinals.
Central relied heavily on the scoring of senior attacker Allie Lucas, but it’s been more spread out in the playoffs. Lucas scored 30 goals in 11 regular season games, yet has one in two postseason matches.
Kelsi Nusbaum and Mariah Wittman scored the goals last week — on assists by Lucas.
The Rams are spreading the wealth a little bit more, which Campbell says is their strength.
“When we’re on top of our game and we’re passing the ball, we look nearly like a college team sometimes,” Campbell said. “That’s been impressive. As long as everyone out there can get on the same page. Unity has been our main theme.”
NOTES: The match will be broadcast live on KJCR radio (1240 AM and 97.5 FM) and online at www.kjcrradio.com. Rocky Erickson of the Northern News Network will handle the play-by-play.