Bellevue 1-1 (3-2 SO) Kamiakin
I know I was predicting more drama for the quarter-final in my last game recap, but I didn't know that my powers of prognostication were so fine-tuned. Yes, we got all of the drama we could handle on Saturday night in front of an amazing crowd of parents, students and girls soccer supporters. Of course, unbeknownst to most in the stands, including our own players, the drama actually began before kick-off, when the Kamiakin coaches officially protested the match due to our two-yellow cards on Wednesday vs. Southridge. They felt that our player shouldn't be allowed to compete. However, our AD had worked hard on our behalf (thank you John Hill) to clarify the WIAA rules on suspensions, and we got a very clear ruling on Friday that Courtney was eligible to play. And I explained all of this to the Kamiakin coaches as a courtesy about 45 minutes before kick-off, but they decided to file a formal protest anyway. Which was promptly denied. But it certainly added to the pre-game playoff vibe. Drama.
Overall, we played a very very solid game. One of our best of the post-season; however, it didn't begin that way. After only 2 minutes we were overly generous hosts and gifted the Braves an opening goal from a 50yd FK that bounced, untouched, into our goal. Sometimes I feel like this season is actually a made-for-TV reality-show, and that at the banquet next week an executive producer will introduce themselves to me, show the hidden camera footage from the last few weeks, and ask how I liked all of the drama the script-writers developed for our playoff run. And I will punch that producer in the face.
Yes, we could've done without the 50yd free kick goal. But after spotting the Braves the lead, we quickly settled down and took control. Slowly and patiently we began to create chances. It wasn't always pretty, but as the half progressed we linked more possession in midfield with attacking opportunities down both of our wings. Our tying goal began with a gift from the Kamiakin goalie, an indirect free kick just inside their penalty box where she had picked up a clear back-pass. Compared to our 2nd minute gift, it was like one spouse opening his gift to find the keys to a new mercedes, while the other rips off the wrapping paper to discover a new spatula. But at that point, any gift was appreciated. Especially after Paige cleverly rolled the ball to Audrey who smashed a low hard shot into the lower corner to tie the game. There was still a lot to do to take advantage of spatula free kick, and Paige & Audrey were poised and smart as they executed perfectly.
The rest of the first half, and the rest of regulation play, was all Bellevue. We dominated possession. We created a fistful of chances to take the lead, but the Kamiakin keeper was solid (even if she may have walked dangerously backwards into the goal while holding the ball late in the 2nd half), and a winning goal in OT just wasn't in the script for this episode.
Instead, we got the sweeps-week drama of another penalty-kick shootout. And again, our hero was Ashley, who guessed correctly for each Braves shooter, saving two and watching a third sail over the crossbar. Zoe, Mo, and Halle all scored their PKs to lead us to a 3-2 PK victory, and we got to celebrate one last time on home turf for the 2019 season. Emmy-award worthy ending.
The objective at the beginning of this season was to return to Sparks Stadium, the annual home of the girls soccer Final Four, and compete for a state title. We are now going to Sparks. We play on Friday vs. Lakeside at 4pm in Puyallup. Old friends and rivals Lake Washington plays Central Kitsap at 2pm in the other semi-final.
It is our 5th trip to the Final Four in 7 years. We won't need directions to the stadium. We know the way.
I'm so proud of our team. They gave everything they had on Saturday night. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the effort on the field, on the sidelines, in the stands, or from their administrative office. All were important in earning our way to the Final Four.
Time to find our #&*$#% Spalding soccer balls. We are going to Sparks.