Bellevue 1-1 (7-6PKs) Gig Harbor
(for a more professional recap, click here)
I haven't been part of such a dramatic string of must-win games in my entire playing or coaching career. Even qualifying for the youth world cup or going to the NCAA finals as a player wasn't this dramatic. Not even close. In each of our last 4 games, we have been a combination of Jimmy Chitwood, Brandi Chastain, and Mike Eruzione at the end of each game (dated references all, but still worth watching each clip to conclusion...). Different players stepping up when needed, and most importantly, the team supporting each other regardless of position, role or age. I couldn't be prouder of this group of girls for what they have achieved over the last four games in 7 days. It's a magical run. Abracadabra. And we keep pulling rabbits out of hats.
PKs are often derided as an odd way to determine a winner of a big soccer game. It's an individual contest of nerves and skill (shooter vs GK) deciding what had previously been 90 minutes of organized teamwork. But undeniably, it creates drama. The ending of our first-round state playoff game vs Gig Harbor had it all from both teams: poise under pressure by shooters and goalkeepers, and even a few wobbles when least expected. We left Gig Harbor with a 1-1 (7-6PK) victory that was the tightest, most competitive, and fun game we have played so far this year. If we could play teams like Gig Harbor every game, win or lose, we would be better for it.
Statistics can often support multiple narratives, but to me our Gig Harbor stats reveal truth: parity. This was a great game of high school soccer. It was a virtual tie in every statistical category I track: shots, shots on goal, corners, chances created, etc. And beyond the stats, my feeling watching the game was the same: both teams left it all out on the field on Tuesday. Hard (but fair) challenges, gut-busting runs forwards and back, clever dribbling, stylish combination-play, great cover defense and organization...and each team had chances to win it in both regulation and overtime. Honestly, my only regret is that the game had to be decided with a missed kick rather than a winning one. I feel for the 8th GHHS kick-taker, but I'm also proud of each Bellevue penalty-shooter for doing her job, controlling her nerves, and helping our team survive and earn a place into the state quarterfinals. CarlyT, Caylee, AnaT, Jo, Kiley, CarlieG, Court and Sky all deserve recognition for stepping up to the spot when the spotlight was brightest.
Regarding the actual recap, after opening minutes in which both teams ebbed and flowed territorially, the Tides scored in the 31st minute from a well-taken shot from their speedy #9 on the right wing. Yes, we had multiple chances to clear the danger before the ball found her feet, but she took her chance well and left Annika with little to do but pick the ball out of the net. Our equalizer arrived shortly after half-time, as Kiley picked up a headed pass from Audrey (?) beyond the Tide defense, raced clear, and slipped the ball past the keeper. But the ball had just enough side-spin to take it onto the far left post, but fortunately for us the pursuing gig harbor defender was chasing so hard to prevent the goal that the ball caromed back off her feet and into the net from point-blank range. Technically the dreaded OG, but Kiley deserved full credit for creating the chance, and given the pressure we created throughout, the goal fairly reflected our attacking ambition. The balance of the game was exactly that: balance. they had chances. we had chances. they played organized team defense. we played organized team defense. they had dangerous set-pieces, we had dangerous set-pieces. 1-1 was a fair regulation result (but it could've easily been 2-2, 3-3 or more). It's a game that was much more suited to a semi-final or final than the first round, but we'll gladly, but humbly, take the W and move on to face the winner of Seattle Prep and Shorecrest on Saturday.
Again, so many. But a special shout-out to our backline of Sky, Claire, Caylee and Court. They played so well the entire game, but especially after we made some tactical adjustments to help handle their busy and aggressive striker and wingers. and after after a few moments of nervy "boot-ball" late in the first half, we calmed down in the second and played more patiently, switching play quickly and calmly even under pressure. Well done back-line. They got better and better throughout; Annika was a stud-ette, always there when we needed her and putting in a really solid goal-keepering display with brave challenges off her line, great hands on shot-stopping, and a wonderful PK save in the 4th round that contributed to our victory; Our midfield had a lot to handle, since GHHS plays the same formation as we do, the game often came down to individual battles all over the field, and our midfielders CarlyT, Audrey, Del, AnaT and AnnaB gave as much as they took in a very scrappy game in the middle. there will be heavy legs today at training, and well-earned heavy legs; up front, Jo, CarlieG, Izzy and Kiley created consistent chances all game, and especially in the overtime period when we had several opportunities to get the golden goal; AnnaB's solid first overtime period after not playing during regulation. Again, you never know when your number will be called, and I thought AnnaB made a great contribution to the game even if it was during a short (but critically important) period of the game; Del's full volley in overtime that narrowly missed wide; AnaJ was injured early in the 2nd half and had to leave the field, but such a gamer that she wanted to be on the field to take her kick for her team in the shootout. And in the third round of PKs she did just that. So proud of her, and all of our girls, for the performance they put in on Tuesday; the game ended with tears and piles of happy teenagers. Thrilled cheering and shouting on the bus. Uploads to social media. And we continue to dance. Quarter-finals on Saturday. Here we come.