KENNEWICK, Wash. — Kamiakin midfielder Alicia Nguyen was busy congratulating teammate Lexi McQueary for drawing a foul inside the Mercer Island penalty box to set up a pivotal penalty kick Tuesday at Lampson Stadium.
Then Nguyen got the call from Braves coach Chris Erikson to take the kick.
Thats a lot of pressure for any sophomore, certainly in a scoreless girls soccer match, and especially in a Class 3A first-round state playoff game.
It wasnt too much for Nguyen, however. She stepped up to the spot without hesitation and drove her shot past Islanders goalkeeper Corey Goetz to put Kamiakin up. That goal held up as the only score of the match, and the Braves advanced to the Class quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory.
Oh yeah. Shes on the money. Shes very good at those, Erikson said after being asked if she knew who the shooter would be. Shes very mentally tough.
It was Nguyens sixth goal of the season, and she definitely had a plan for this one.
We practice these a lot, she said. What I do is I stare at the ball, but when the ref blows the whistle I look at the other side. Then I take my shot on the opposite side.
Nguyen hit the ball with such force that if Goetz had guessed correctly, she may not have stopped the shot, which tucked itself just inside the right post.
I was really nervous, but my friends cheered me on, Nguyen said. That gave me confidence.
The win puts the Braves (16-2-1) into a rematch with Mt. Spokane (18-0), the Greater Spokane League champion that beat them 2-0 last Tuesday up in Spokane. Kamiakin will again make the long road trip up Highway 395 for a 1 p.m. Saturday match.
The site has not been finalized, according to Erikson, but the preliminary site has been listed as Spokane Falls Community College.
The last matchup was played at Mt. Spokane High School, a short field with several mud puddles along the sidelines. The Braves felt the Wildcats chose that field to take away their speed advantage and strength in the open field.
Despite the frustrating regional championship loss, the Braves are happy to get another crack at the Wildcats, who beat Enumclaw 2-1 to reach the quarters. The winner gets a trip to the Final Four at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
I told my kids were going up (to Spokane) and were going to have a good game. We have to play smart, and we have to be unafraid. We played very afraid last game, Erikson said. Its kind of like the track coach said about Ellie (Heiden). Theres a speed speed she has, and theres a speed we havent even seen yet.
Tonight was another step for us, but I think we have another gear.
Mercer Island looked comfortable in the first 25 minutes of the match, marching the ball down the wings and centering it into the middle for a few early shots. They also forced two corner kicks in the first 15 minutes, which put pressure on the defense.
But Erikson put marking defender Heather Donais on Islanders midfielder Laura Harrison to take away the crosses, which shifted the momentum to Kamiakin.
They didnt like to take long shots (on goal), so they basically ditched the crosses, Braves defender Sarah Burns said. (Midfielders) Megan Young and Bre Turley were the heart of our defense, and the rest of the defense followed.
Scoring1, K, Alisha Nguyen (PK), 35:00. ShotsMI 7, K 9. SavesMI, Corey Goetz 0. K, Sydnee Grant 2.