(#5) Bellevue 5-0 (#12) Capital
9th min Bekah (Nova)
18th min Hinana (Alex)
28th min Mia (Emily)
49th min Bekah (Kate)
51st min Cammy (unassisted)
The 3A State tournament had been completely redesigned for 2021, increasing to a 20-team tournament (from 16), and introducing RPI and a tournament seeding committee to create brackets that are based on seeding rather than geography or district results. Overall, it is a positive change; however, it does come with some interesting adjustments. For instance, the 3A tournament moved to a "regional" hosting model for the sweet 16 and quarterfinal rounds, which means that only the top 4 seeds in the tournament got to host for back-to-back games with less than 24 hours of recovery between rounds (with the exception being the lower-seeded teams that had to play in the first round with lower seeding teams getting a single home game..). What this meant for Bellevue: a #5 seed, a first-round BYE, a 10-day rest, then a sweet 16 encounter with the #12 seed from Olympia, Captial HS played at the stadium selected by #4 seeded Auburn-Riverside. Confused yet? It was a lot for everyone digest. But in the end, we had plenty of time to prepare for our 3A debut against the Capital Cougars.
With ten days of rest, it's sometimes difficult to find a rhythm again; however, it wasn't an issue for our girls who asserted themselves immediately against Capital. In the 9th minute, Alex broke down the left wing and fired shot that the keeper deflected off of the far post, Nova chased down the loose ball and dropped it back to Bekah who cut inside and finished smoothly, 1-0 Bellevue. In the 18th minute, Alex fed Hinana at the top of the box, and our junior captain beat two defenders on the dribble before squeezing the ball past the keeper from a very tight angle. 2-0 BHS. In the 28th minute, freshman Mia took a header-pass from Emily, turned her defender and finished smartly at the far post. It was the third goal, to go along with 2 assists in just 4 games of cameo minutes for Mia. The Future is bright. At halftime with a 3-0 lead, we were able to rotate the team and showcase our incredible depth. In the 49th minute, Bekah took a pass from Kate and beat her defender on the outside before smashing a low-hard shot into the far corner. 4-0 Bellevue. Two minutes later, and Cammy got her first goal of the season with a speculative left-footed effort from 45 yards away that skipped over the Cougar keeper for a 5-0 winning margin. Pure joy.
In the end, everything seemed to go perfectly in our State tournament debut. Our defense was stout, our possession was quick and decisive, and our finishing was crisp and efficient. We even had a wonder-save from Amirah in the first half, diving at full stretch and saving a shot that was destined to find the top corner before our junior keeper took flight and maintain our shutout. But my favoritete highlight was the fact that our senior keeper Ashley was in goal for the second half less than 4 weeks from having surgery that required 3 pins to secure bones in her hand. To state the obvious, hands are pretty important for a goalkeeper, and when she was injured earlier in the season against MI, we maintained hope for a quick recovery but the medical probabilities certainly didn't favor healing fast enough to get game time in a State playoff game. But don't tell Ashley the odds. She was determined. So special kudos to Ashley. whose toughness and willingness to train hard to even get a slender chance to return to help her team is an attitude that I wish I could bottle and give to every future player in our program. Extraordinary.
The game stats were comprehensive, 20/5 vs. 4/2 shots/corners advantage to our Wolverines. And so we moved on to face surprise Cinderella and #13 seed Seattle Prep, who upset the #4 host team Auburn-Riverside after our game on Friday night with a tough defensive display. Although, casting Prep as a Cinderella is like casting The Rock as a middle school weakling in an after-school special. They might play the role, but nobody who follows high school soccer would be convinced that Prep is a higher-seed weakling to be bullied in the schoolyard. We knew better, but still....