After the first 40 minutes of the opening game of Mother Lode League Play, the Bret Harte High School girls’ soccer team was stuck in a 0-0 tie with the Argonaut Mustangs. The Bullfrogs had a number of chances in the first half to put the ball into the back of the net, but each shot didn’t yield a positive result.

At halftime, Bret Harte’s first-year head coach Jessica Bowman told her players to just keep shooting, as one is bound to be the shot they needed. Bret Harte sophomore Kara Schultz must have been listening, as she scored three times in the second half to lead the Bullfrogs to a 3-0 victory Tuesday night at Dorroh Field in Angels Camp.

Even though Schultz finished the night with a hat trick, not being able to score in the first half frustrated everyone wearing a Bret Harte uniform.

Schultz records hat trick in MLL win over Argo

“When we start a game, our main goal is to score early,” Schultz said. “Once you score early, the other team gets down. We wanted to score early and get them off their game, but we didn’t do that and our passes were a little off, so we were a little upset.”

Bowman added, “I was a little concerned at the beginning because we were playing so well and were dominating the possession and had some beautiful plays and passes, but we were unable to find the net. I hoped that eventually we’d be able to connect with some goals, which we were luckily able to do.”

It didn’t take long for Schultz to give Bret Harte the lead once play resumed in the second half. With 37:25 to play, Schultz took a deep shot that hit the Argonaut goalkeeper right in the hands. Schultz began to turn around and get back on defense, when she heard cheering. She looked back and realized the ball bounced off the hands of the goalkeeper and rolled into the back of the net for the first goal of the night.

Schultz records hat trick in MLL win over Argo

“We definitely got a little bit looser and there was less pressure on us once we scored,” Schultz said.

Nearly 10 minutes later, Schultz again put the ball into the back of the net. Bret Harte’s Ellie Shaw executed a corner kick, but instead of making a pass to her teammates right in front of the net, she passed to Schultz, who was standing about 25 yards away from the goal.

“When she shot it to me, I just hammered it,” Schultz said.

Upon receiving the pass from Shaw, Schultz took a shot that hit the upper corner of the net, just a few feet over the hands of the Argonaut goalkeeper for the 2-0 lead.

Schultz records hat trick in MLL win over Argo

Leading by two, Bret Harte’s defense got even stronger and made it difficult for Argonaut’s offense to get any momentum. Bret Harte senior goalie Olivia Luna kept the Mustang’s from scoring, which gives Bret Harte three shutouts on the year.

“Our defense was awesome,” Bowman said. “We’ve been running a tight-four on our back line and the girls are doing a phenomenal job. They cover each other really well and use each other to move the ball around the back line very effectively. They are also communicating really well with Olivia Luna, our goalkeeper. Our improvement over the last few weeks defensively has been huge.”

Schultz records hat trick in MLL win over Argo

Schultz scored her third goal of the night with 5:10 to play. She has now scored in three straight games.

“It’s so cool to see that beam on her face when she does score,” Bowman said about Schultz. “She responds really well to positive coaching and positive reinforcement. If we are down or tied, I’ll look at her and say, ‘Kara, it’s your turn,’ and she says,’ OK, coach, I’ll go score now,’ and she does. Positive reinforcement seems to work really for us as coach and player.”

Schultz records hat trick in MLL win over Argo

Bret Harte (1-0 MLL) will look to keep its positive momentum going as it takes on Calaveras (0-1 MLL) at 5:45 p.m., Thursday in San Andreas.

“I’m really looking forward to that game,” Schultz said. “I think it’ll be an even match and I’m looking forward to the competitiveness of it.”

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