Bellevue 3-0 Mercer Island
1st min Audrey (Halle)
48th min Nova (Mo)
74th min Mo (Vanessa)
Like some of you, I watched a bit of college basketball over the past few days (when I wasn't game-planning for the Islanders, of course). The "cinderella" of this year's Final Four is 11th seed UCLA, who defeated #1 seed Michigan just a few days ago. After the game, I loved this quote from UCLA head coach Mick Cronin, "At UCLA we spell "fun," "W....I....N."
Coach Cronin may have flunked Language Arts with his spelling, and I believe that there can be plenty of important lessons and nobility in a hard-fought defeat, but he's not wrong. And at Bellevue girls soccer, we've been having a lot of "fun" during our spring season.
And so on a calm and crisp spring evening, at the tail-end of the worst global pandemic in a century, it was wonderful to see families together, students supporters in the stands cheering and being teenagers, and our senior players playing exquisite soccer in their last high school game for Bellevue. It. was. fun. Every senior started and ended the game (with a tip of the hat to Izzy who shutout MI in the first half). There were hugs, tears, and lots of laughter. It helped that we had an almost perfect start to the game. From the kick-off, MI passed the ball backward with the intention of sparking some rhythm in possession. But Mo, Hinana and Chloe hunted them down in packs, applying such tenacious pressure that we won the ball deep in MI territory, and Halle earned a Bellevue corner before the game was 30 seconds old. From an MI kick-off. Halle then hit a tremendous corner that at least two Bellevue players had a chance to score before senior captain Audrey finished on the line at the back post. Pandemonium ensued. The senior celebration had begun in the best possible way.
The balance of the half was very competitive (like all rivalry games) as both teams had chances. There was good goalkeeping on both sides, and senior goalkeeper Izzy made several brave saves to blank the Islanders in her final half wearing her Bellevue jersey. It wasn't until the 48th minute that we added to the lead thanks to the tireless physical pressure that senior forward Mo applied throughout the game. This time, she forced the keeper into an error, blocking a clearance that eventually fell to left winger Nova. Nova still had a lot to do as the MI defense scrambled and closed her down immediately, but with steely calm, Nova fired a low hard shot at the near post corner to extend our lead to 2-0. From then on, with each passing minute, we increased our control of the game and generated good chances. We hit crossbars, and forced saves from the MI keeper. Then in the 74th minute, senior Audrey challenged and won the ball in the air, senior midfielder Kennedy hit a first-time pass out wide to senior left-back Vanessa, who raced down the wing before crossing to senior forward Mo, who volleyed the cross into the upper corner of the goal with a single glorious touch. Senior to senior to senior to senior, and the most epic way to end a game to honor the class of '21.
Final whistle, 3-0, and our team was nothing but a pile of happy hugs and tears.
Huge thanks to every parent, grandparent, alumni parent, alumni player, booster and student supporter who came to the game tonight. It made a huge difference.
Our version of March Madness was...wait for it...so fun.
Players of the Game/Week/Month:
Audrey Miller '21, Vanessa Rubel '21, Zoe Fowler '21, Kennedy Shorett '21, Izzy Shorett '21, Morgan Pingree '21, Danielle Grinstead '21, Lily Ramos '21. This group of seniors has set the bar very very high. Undefeated and untied in their final season. Nobody will ever be able to convince me that this team wouldn't have taken two joyous bus rides to Sparks stadium had we had a normal season. I'm thankful for what we got, but I'm certain that the final bus ride would've included an enormous trophy and really really loud celebratory music. I will miss them dearly.
Bellevue JV 1-0 Mercer Island
64th min Emily Wang (Emi W)
As Coach Peter stated, rivalry games are weird. There is always added elements that need to be factored into any matchup. In our second game with Mercer Island on Thursday night, nerves were evident, revenge was on the table (for MI) and it all played out in this tense rematch.
Tense is probably not the right word for our final game of the season. Tense means it was a back-and-forth affair with one mistake/brilliance deciding the game. Last night, not so much.
We dominated this game from start to finish. We had great ball movement, we played for each other and had good communication. You would think this would all add up to another blow out like the last time we played the Islanders (5-0).
We created chances time and time again but our lack of finishing reared its ugly head once again. We hit cross bars, sent far too many shots over the cross bar or just wide. The Mercer Islander goal keepers both had outstanding games and need to be commended. We put them to the test for sure with 40 shots on goal and they made 12 saves.
We talked at halftime about our first tight game and what that can mean; winning 50-50 balls is crucial, heavy touches are killers and finishing our chances in the box are a must.
As the game wore on, the pressure started to mount. Our perfect season was on the line and you could see it on the field. We had not been in a close game all season so I was excited to see the girls step up to the challenge.
In the 64th minute junior Emi Williams made a long run from her right back position deep into MI territory and sent a brilliant cross all the way to the far post. Emily Wang was waiting patiently to knock it in the net for the game’s only goal. The loudest cheer I heard all season erupted from our bench.
I thought one goal would open the flood gates but that wasn’t the case. The battle continued and as time was running out, Mercer Island got one last chance. A bouncing ball in the midfield fell to an MI player who sent a ball into our 18-yard box that found the feet of their forward. She ripped a far post shot that looked destined to find the net and tie the score with just seconds remaining.
But Mercer Island didn’t factor in our secret weapon: Amirah Hague. Our goalkeeper has been asked to do next to nothing all season with 9 shutouts and just 4 shots on goal all season. But she was ready for the challenge. She pushed the shot wide, as she has so many times in practice, to save the day. On top of all that, she snared the ensuing cornerkick and punted it up field to run out the clock.
With the final whistle, we all breathed a sigh of relief. Our perfect season was in tact.
It was a great season and I also would like to thank all the parents, volunteers and staff that made this season a success. I appreciate you entrusting me with your girls. It was a lot of fun for this old guy and I hope they had as much fun as I had. And maybe, just maybe, they learned a little something along the way.
I want to thank our three captains (Gisele, Cami D, Kate) and our team manager Charlotte for all their help this season.