Bellevue 1-1 (4-3) Blanchet
Oh what a night. After another breathless round of shootout penalty kicks, our team moves on to the state tournament quarterfinals. The turn-around is less than 24 hours, so I'll attempt to be brief (ha ha), as our focus is on the future, not the past.
But our recent past has certainly been dramatic and deserves some reflection. Despite an unflattering overall record that earned them a #17 seed, Blanchet is a very very good team. Earlier in the season, they beat the previously undefeated and defending state champs Lakeside. So we knew that the seeding mismatch was a bracket illusion. Also, Blanchet is a type of team that we don't face in Kingco regularly. They are big, strong, and athletic at every position and muscle through every tackle with a relish for the physical side of our game. They are relentless in the tackle. We matched their physicality with quickness, speed, and good organization. We were rewarded in the 21st minute, as EmilyW slipped a clever ball into Mia's feet at the top of the Blanchet box, Mia scampered around the Bears keeper and rolled the ball into an open net. 1-0 Bellevue. From that point on, the game ebbed and flowed with chances at both ends. Both goalkeepers were excellent. But then in the 55th minute, Blanchet scored a goal that no goalkeeper is stopping. We routinely cleared an innocent-looking lobbed ball sent into our box, but their holding midfielder raced onto the bouncing ball and unleashed a rocket on the half-volley from 30 yards that had no arc to it as it hit the upper right corner of the net. Nothing to do but applaud a truly magnificent goal. And it was 1-1 and Blanchet surged with belief and confidence.
From there, we had several chances to win. But Blanchet had several chances to win too. In the end, at the final whistle, we were into our second consecutive shootout to determine which team would advance, and which team would have their season end abruptly. Just like 10 days ago against LW, I'm proud of all five of our shooters and keepers. Well done Gaby, Leah, Emily, MIa, Lexi and Amirah. Tournament play hinges on little margins. Good preparation. Mental toughness. Belief. And sometimes the margins are as thin as the inside of a post, an excellent save on the 5th shooter, followed by another smooth finish from Lexi. Celebration.
And now we face a very good Shorewood team. A team that had to play overtime in their victory over Ridgeline which featured its own mix of amazingly dramatic moments. Shorewood scored on a free kick in the 79th minute to force overtime, then won with a golden goal free kick on the last kick of the overtime second period. The Stingrays (???) will be riding high coming into our game. And have just as many stressful minutes in their legs as our girls.
So here we go. See you at Bellevue Stadium. The magic number is three.