Bellevue 1-1 Holy Names (4-3 Shootout)
I'm writing this recap just a few hours after witnessing the Seattle Sounders win the MLS Cup in front of 70,000 fans at CenturyLink. The players, supporters and coaches were all ecstatic, joyful, happy. There is a parade scheduled for Tuesday. Nobody is talking about the Sounders soccer aesthetics from Sunday (poor, at best), instead it's just a raucous celebration of a championship.
So we qualified for the 3A state tournament on Saturday night in the most dramatic way possible. At the final whistle, the players, coaches and supporters were all ecstatic, joyful and happy. And nobody is talking about the soccer aesthetics from Saturday, instead it's a raucous celebration of making it back to the state tournament.
And I'm going to keep it that way.
We started brightly, pressuring the NH backline into hurried clearances and battling for possession in the middle of the field. We deservedly opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, Rebekah making an instant impact having come onto the field just a few minutes before. Rebekah send a perfect early cross from the right wing, hard and low, and Courtney arrived just a fraction ahead of her defender on the left side to curl the ball into the side of the net. Beautiful. By halftime, it was still 1-0 and HN had only attempted a single shot on goal, a long-range effort that Izzy comfortably saved without any stress.
We began the 2nd half keeping a very good team shape, and not allowing any HN to launch any shots near our goal. All seemed in control. And our lead seemed safe. Manageable. Then in the 60th minute we conceded a PK. Or rather, the referee blew her whistle for a PK after the HN striker attempted a header, fell down afterwards (untouched from my view), and referee was pointing to the spot. Sigh. Very frustrating. But soccer karma is strong. And so is our sophomore keeper. The HN captain smashed a low-hard shot and Ashley was there to make the save. It was an exceptional save on a PK that would typically find the net.
The save was critical, but the PK drama seemed to energize Holy Names. The momentum fully shifted, and the balance of the game was a frenzied scramble as we repelled wave after wave of urgent attacks as HN players looked to avoid a loss in regulation time. When the clock hit the 77th minute, it was impossible for me to not feel a sense of deja vu. Two years ago, versus Holy Names in the exact same pigtail-playoff game, we took a 1-0 lead into the last few minutes of the game when Holy Names equalized in the 77th minute. And then it happened again. We conceded a corner. They served an excellent ball into a dangerous area, and it was tied. deja vu indeed. A glitch in the matrix and the full-time whistle. 1-1.
Both overtimes were a blur, and we entered the roulette wheel of soccer overtime: a penalty shootout. We have been working on PKs after every practice since the first week of October. However, the shock of allowing a last minute goal in regulation time was still etched on the faces of several of our players. Which is understandable. And is also why I'm so proud of how the next few minutes unfolded. Sometimes when feeling down, or depressed, or upset, all you can do is move forward, put on the most confident face you can, and get on with it. Fake it, til you make it. Literally. Gut it out. But it got very dark before it got light. We were down 1-3 after three rounds. It looked bleak. Then Ashley happened. Two saves and we were miraculously into the sudden death rounds. Zoe smashed her PK in the 6th round to take the lead, and then Ashley did the incredible: save her 3rd PK of the shootout, and then joyous pandemonium as our team rushed the field with the narrowest of victories.
The players, supporters and coaches were all ecstatic, joyful, happy. No aesthetics required. Just results.
On to Southridge.
Our sorority of goalkeepers kept us in this game. First Izzy pitched a shutout in the first half with confident front-foot goalkeeping, then Ashley put on the superhero cape and saved FOUR PKs (one in regulation, and three in the shootout). Amazing; our 12s were amazing again on Saturday night. Our bench was the most supportive and vocal I've seen all year. And ready. Thank you; Mo came into the game to tactically defend a corner, then scored our first PK in the shootout. Brave; Kudos to all of our PK shooters whether they scored or not, it's a stressful job, and they all made that long walk looking confident (regardless of how they really felt). Fake it, til you make it. Gut it out. And 4 of them made it to ensure we qualified for the state tournament.
What's next? First round of the state tournament vs. Southridge in Kennewick on Wednesday at 5pm. Bus to depart BHS at 11am. Southridge home field is grass. But the field could be asphalt, oatmeal, or an ice sheet and I wouldn't care. We'll play on any surface. Bring on the Suns.