Bellevue 3-2 Southridge
I thought our 2017 team had a monopoly on playoff drama with 3 PK shootout wins, a golden goal victory, and a last second game-winner over 5 consecutive games, but our 2019 team is showing that we have a flair for the dramatic that is unique and just as compelling.
Our gameday couldn't have started any better. We honored Ally and Paige in a college Letter of Intent signing ceremony, and then were given an amazing send-off by the band, friends and parents on the way to our bus bound for Kennewick. Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen (Jimmy Johns, the band, snack bags, etc.). Once we arrived at Southridge, we walked the field grass (a bit patchy, but overall excellent for mid-November), toured the high school and got mentally prepared for the big game.
The game began as we expected, with a frenzied and sloppy tempo as post-season adrenaline pumped through both teams. Then before the game had a chance to settle down, we made a communication error at the back and gifted the Suns a 0-1 lead. It happens. It's unfortunate that it happened in the state tournament, but it happens. So I won't be casting the first stone here, because every player (and coach) makes mistakes, but I do know that we won't make that particular mistake again. The balance of the half was mostly mediocre with the Suns retreating into a very organized and disciplined defensive shape, and our team trying to figure out the right pace and weight for our passes on grass (mostly unsuccessfully). The risk as we neared halftime was that with each additional minute that passed, it gave Southridge increased confidence that they could protect their lead all the way through the final whistle. Until the 39th minute, when Kennedy pounced on a mis-clearance by the very steady Suns backline (at least until that moment), and hit a wonderful first-time shot into the lower left corner of the goal. Lifeline. The white elephant gift-exchange of goals was complete. Relief. Halftime just seconds after our equalizer. And we could re-start the game on equal footing in the 2nd half.
Because we needed a re-start. At halftime, we had words. It wasn't scripted, but I recall using specific words like "fire and brimstone," "not good enough" and "total crap" (I save my most poetic language for the end). We made some tactical adjustments and sent the girls back out there on a mission. A restart. And this beginning was much better than the one 40 minutes earlier. We pressured Southridge from the start, got around both wings in attack, and won more balls at midfield and in our backline. We were rewarded in the 63rd minute when Chloe slipped a neat pass into Court, who shielded the ball exceptionally well and slotted home from eight-yards to give us a 2-1 lead. Two minutes later, Audrey sent a long free kick into their box, Court flicked it on, and there was Kate who had the composure to take a settling touch in a crowded box before blasting home for a 3-1 lead. Then the game got weird. Two minutes after Kate's goal, Southridge had a PK for a hand-ball. Ashley got a strong paw on the shot, but it was converted and the joy of a two-goal lead was extinguished before we could even savor it. But it gets weirder, two minutes after the PK, we got the first red-card I've ever seen in girls high school soccer on a mysterious and non-sensical call that I will never, ever understand. I won't go into a lengthy diatribe here, but it's important to note that the video evidence shows clearly that our player was sent off for being fouled on the sideline. But once the card comes out it doesn't matter if it was justified or not, there's nothing to be done but make quick tactical changes to adjust with 10 players and protect our slender lead. Which we did. To add to the absurdity of the red card, we even survived 8 minutes of extra-time in which the referee had indicated 4 minutes. And numerous and outrageously dangerous long-throw-ins by Southridge (she really was amazing). 3-2 win. Drama. Proper playoff drama.
Respect to Southridge, who played hard, fair and organized soccer. And they were exceptional hosts, greeting us upon arrival and making sure we had what we needed to be ready to play our game. Eastern Washington hospitality is a real thing.
We are now a state quarter-finalist. Which earns us the right to host a game that will be played Saturday November 16th at 4pm against perennial tri-cities power-house Kamiakin who dispatched Lakes High School 3-0 in their sweet-16 game on the road. The Braves travel well and will be a very tough match-up.
We don't know how that game will play out, but I suspect there might be a fair amount of playoff drama.
Our parents are awesome. Thank you for making the long trip to the tri-cities to support the team. It matters. A lot; I write a lot about the challenge and difficulty of being a good teammate when your role is as a substitute. The blend of ambition, frustration, belief, team-first support and readiness is a significantly more difficult cocktail to swallow than the smooth tonic given to a starter; so I couldn't be more proud of the fact that Kennedy scored the vital game-tying goal after coming on as a late sub in the first half, and that Kate scored the eventual game-winner from off the bench as well. We also got great minutes from everyone who took the field in both halves, including Kaatje & Imme who bolstered our defense from off the bench and helped close out the game; Chloe's assist on Court's goal, and her tireless pressuring of the Southridge defenders in the 2nd half, told me a lot about how she responds to in-game challenges. and her character.;
Today we earned the collective recognition of being a 3A state quarter-finalist. Every player on the roster, and throughout our program, has a stake in this milestone. It's recognition that high-quality programs like Gig Harbor and Seattle Prep won't be able to claim this year despite their excellent teams. I hope we take pride in this achievement, while staying hungry and humble, and aspire to get even better at the next opportunity. Thank you to the entire BHS soccer community for making our sweet-16 game very sweet indeed. And now we welcome Kamiakin to Bellevue stadium.