BHS 3-0 Interlake (50 minutes due to AQI)
4th min Mia (Lexi)
13th min Hinana (Lexi)
25th min Raina (Lexi)
There's a first time for everything. For some on Thursday, it was the first time getting playing time on the varsity team...or the first time scoring a varsity goal..or dishing three assists in a single game...or having the final whistle blow in the 50th minute, not the 80th, due to forest fire smoke making the conditions unsafe for play. Yes, it was a wonderfully strange night at Interlake, full of firsts. But even more satisfyingly, we played beautiful, consistent, crisp soccer in a 50-minute 3-0 win.. And with our victory against the Saints, our Bellevue Wolverines clinched the Kingco regular season title and earned the #1 seed in our league playoffs. This is the earliest a Bellevue team has clinched the regular-season title: another first. So regardless of how our final three games go, we will host the #2 seed (TBD) at Bellevue Stadium on Tuesday, November 1st for the Kingco tournament championship, and an automatic bid to State. Of course, we still have away tests at Hazen and Mercer Island before our senior night against Liberty still to come, but it's nice to enter those games with the confidence that our girls have already earned one title (regular season champs), and secured our chance to compete for another in just under three weeks time (tournament title game). Well done.
Ahead of the game against Interlake, we knew that we were in for a competitive mismatch. In the ebb and flow of public high school soccer, it's been a challenging shallow ebb for our neighboring Saints this year, while we have been flowing fast and high. So we took the opportunity to invite several members of our JV to join the varsity and rotated the lineup to experiment with new player combos and positions. My message to our team before kick-off was simple: always respect your opponents by playing your honest best. And the players responded by crafting one of our best team goals of the season. In the 4th minute, Cami won the ball from an Interlake throw-in at midfield and kept possession by dropping the ball back to Maddy, sixteen simple, confident, and quick passes later and Mia smashed the ball into the upper corner of the net after Lexi provided a magnificent cross from an overlapping run down our right wing. It was a goal of patience and control. We rotated the ball across our backline twice, all passes requiring only one or two touches, looking for a good upfield channel to advance the ball. Eventually, Hinana threaded the ball into Leah's feet on the right. Leah made a perfect one-touch pass to an overlapping Lexi, and Lexi's pass to Mia was equally perfect, freeing our striker to finish smartly over the keeper. So so so good. Ten minutes later and the score had doubled. Lexi again earned the assist, but this perhaps was an assist of more modest origins than our 16-pass masterpiece. Lexi threw the ball to Hinana. That's it. A simple backwards throw-in to feet, and Taki did the rest, weaving past six Interlake defenders with dribbling poise as smooth as silk before depositing the ball into the back of the net. Exquisite individual effort. When you show a team that you can string together 16 passes, suddenly dribbling lanes become wider and more unexpected. And Hinana took advantage. 2-0 Bellevue. And finally, in the 25th minute, we scored another great team goal, as our three freshmen (and Lexi) combined to create a goal of stunning beauty. Kendall won the ball from an Interlake punt and passed to Lexi at right back. Lexi advanced the ball to Nora at striker and her one-touch pass wide found Kalea who spun her defender before slipping a delicate pass up the right channel to an overlapping Lexi (she never stopped her run after her initial pass). The combination looked exactly like the patterned finishing we work so hard on at training. Quick decisive passes and near-constant movement off the ball. Lexi got to the endline before crossing into a dangerous area in front of goal where Raina made a clever checking run and was rewarded by firing home from a yard out to score her first varsity goal from Lexi's third assist of the game. 3-0 Bellevue. And that's how we entered halftime.
Now about that strange 50 minute gametime. Some of you may have noticed that our opening kick-off was ten minutes early against Interlake. This was because the AQI was hovering just below concerning levels pre-game, and we feared that if it increased too rapidly we might be forced to abandon the game and reschedule. Neither coach wanted to do that but we both understood that the AQI data would take precedent. So we hurried. We kicked off while the AQI was at acceptable levels and tried to maximize our odds that we could play enough minutes to get the game in the books. Once we got to halftime, we had satisfied the WIAA standards to consider the result official (with the mutual agreement of both coaches and match referee). But after only 10 minutes into the second half, the referee was forced to blow the final whistle 30 minutes early. The AQI had increased since kick-off, and we had reached the district limit at which conditions are considered unsafe for play. Of course, we would've preferred to play a full game. Soccer is fun and that's why we play. But we want the girls to be safe, and the air was a chewy brown by the time the referee had to intercede.
Next up is an away trip to Hazen next Tuesday. Although we are happy to have a regular season title secured, I know that our girls want to finish our regular season with three more polished performances. Undefeated and untied league championships are special and rare, so we'll bring our best effort knowing that this team seems to enjoy being a team of firsts.
ps. Kudos to all of the JV players who contributed versus Interlake. I thought each of them played well. We are extremely blessed as a program to have extraordinary depth of talent this year. I know with confidence that there are another 6-7 JV players who we didn't call up last night who would've been great too. The margins are thin. The decisions are mine. I have had the privilege of watching every JV game this year, and the overall level of play has been excellent. Of course, I am extemely thankful for coach John for preparing his players to move up the team hierarchy (have I mentioned that coach John has only sufferred one (!!!) Kingco defeat in FIVE seasons of coaching at Bellevue...one!?! It boggles. even Pep, Belichick and Kerr lost a few games every year during the height of their dynasties...but not Coach John).