Bellevue 3-0 Bonney Lake
6th min Mia (Leah)
58th min Saleen (Mia)...or Mia (Alex)?
59th min Red Card Bonney Lake (2nd Yellow)
60th min Alex (unassisted)
A wonderful thing about winning the Kingco Championship (our district tournament) is that we were among the first teams to qualify for State and earned 11 days of rest. Great right? But even after tryouts way back in August, we never had to wait eleven days to play a game. It's a long time. And although we have had some good training sessions in preparation for Bonney, nothing can simulate the physicality, nerves, and pace of actual games...let alone tournament elimination soccer. So the coaching staff entered our first 2023 state tournament game with optimism, but recognizing that gameday rust might tarnish our polish since our win against LW.
The game started well. After just six minutes we had a lead, as Lily took a throw-in deep in Bonney territory that Lillian flicked centrally at the top of the box where Leah was waiting to help it along, squaring to Mia near the top of the D. Mia spun her defender and hit a ferocious one-time shot with her left foot that caromed off of the top of the crossbar and into the net. It was a promising start, and flick headers is something that we had worked on earlier this week in training so it was nice to see things move from the training ground to a game...Unfortunately, it wasn't indicative of what was to follow: a herky-jerky half of disjointed soccer where we failed to connect many passes, were late to tackles or dangled a leg, and were lucky to get to halftime with our lead intact. Rust. Very rusty.
But all season this team has found a way to rally, to persevere, even when we aren't playing our most composed and stylish soccer. Our rally started with some personnel rotation. Our game plan for Bonney was to rotate our lineup liberally to take advantage of our depth, especially given that Bonney had played a competitive and tough game on Tuesday in a 2-1 victory over Southridge in the first round of the State tournament. Eleven days versus 2 days of rest. So we substituted early and often. And every player who came off the bench provided excellent minutes to our cause, especially in the 2nd half. It was the catalyst for a significantly better team performance in the final 40 minutes. The insurance goal came in the 58th minute from a Bonney Lake corner, their first and only of the game. Alex cleared with a powerful header upfield where Mia latched onto the ball a good 75 yards from the Panther goal. And. we. were. off. and. running. Mia charged straight at the final two Bonney defenders for the next 50 yards with Saleen sprinting in support to her right. Mia cut back across the defenders in the Bonney box and fired a shot that the keeper could only parry to her left...where Saleen was able to pounce and pound the ball into the open net (or did it cross the line before the final touch?...). 2-0 Bellevue. Mia's direct full-field run and shot were magnificent, but Saleen making the same 75yd run, at full sprint, staying onsides, in support of the play was exactly what we had discussed at halftime: wanting the ball and working hard to be in position to get it. So I was thrilled that Mia and Saleen combined for such a needed, and lung-busting counter-attack, regardless of which player got the final touch. Well done to all involved.
Then directly from the kickoff, Bonney gave the ball away on their right and Mia picked up the loose ball at midfield right in front of our bench...and was clattered with a very late tackle directly on her ankle. Do I think the Bonney player was trying to hurt Mia? Absolutely not. The Bonney captain was likely frustrated at conceding a second goal (understandable), and the subsequent quick giveaway by her teammate directly from their kick-off couldn't have helped, and she made a rash tackle. It happens. But unfortunately, the Bonney player had already picked up a yellow card in the first half (clattering Maddy), and the lateness and intensity of her foul on Mia left the referee with no choice: Second yellow card. Which then by rule resulted in a red card and immediate ejection. The visiting Panthers were not only down two goals but had to play the rest of the game with 10 players.
A minute after the red card, in the 60th, Alex intercepted a wayward Bonney pass 25 yards from their goal after excellent pressing by Saleen, and our senior captain didn't hesitate, unleashing a powerball knuckler that was already bulging the net before the keeper even moved. And that's how fast a game can change. Two minutes prior, the game was a tightly contested one-goal game. Two minutes later, the score was 3-0 and Bonney was down a player, and the game was effectively over. Over last 20 minutes we patiently maintained possession and saw the game to conclusion. No need for a wider margin. Final score. 3-0 Bellevue.
Well done team on a playoff shutout. We attack as 11, and we defend as 11, but our backline deserves kudos for managing a very good and busy Bonney center forward. Well done.
So now we move on to face our semi-final opponent from last year: #9 Shorecrest. Shorecrest has returned almost everyone from their Final Four run in 2022. They are organized and press hard all over the field. The Scots advanced to the quarterfinal by defeating Peninsula 1-0 in golden goal 2nd overtime. They will be riding high from an emotional and dramatic win and I believe it will likely be a very competitive and tightly contested quarterfinal with a birth to the Final Four at Sparks Stadium the spoils for the victor. The kick-off is at 6pm. Bellevue stadium. Our last game on home turf for this Bellevue team. And for our seniors. Let's make it one to remember with a joyful celebration at the final whistle. No more rust.
Is the magic number.