With two weeks to go in the regular season, the Southridge High School soccer team is right where it hoped it would be.
Not many teams come off of consecutive trips to the final game of the state tournament and add veteran talent, but that’s exactly what the Suns (11-1, 9-1 first in Mid-Columbia Conference) have done.
Senior forward McKaley Goffard was absent from Southridge’s 2015 squad that went 19-3 and finished second at state because of a knee injury sustained while playing for her club team — she scored 19 goals during her sophomore season. While not on the same prolific pace she was in 2014, she’s certainly been one of several weapons the Suns have at their disposal, scoring four of the team’s 35 goals through 12 games.
Kayleen Sambrano has led the Southridge attack this season, with eight goals and two assists to her credit, and Morgan Nelson and Kendall Pope have each scored half a dozen.
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But perhaps the biggest effect of Southridge having depth on the front lines is that it’s allowed last year’s Co-MCC Player of the Year and first team all-state forward Haley Thomas to move back to her natural position at central defender — she played up front in Goffard’s stead last year. Paired with the stellar play of first team all-state defender Emily Russell, Pope, Emma Schutt, Jewel Valadez and goalkeeper Tiara Valadez, the Suns have allowed just four goals and have yet to give up more than one in a single match.
“I think our team has defended very well this season,” Southridge coach Greg Sambrano said. “I think we need to continue to develop consistency in our attack in the final third, movement and transition.”
The attacking third will need to be in top form Tuesday when the Suns travel to Hanford to take on the Falcons (8-3, 7-2), who lead Kamiakin by a 1/2 game for the second spot in the MCC. Hanford’s defense has been nearly on par with Southridge’s, as it has only allowed multiple goals in two conference matches — consequently, both of its losses.
Senior goalkeeper Kelsee Winston has been as good as any keeper in the conference, making 34 saves and recording four clean sheets. Offensively, the Falcons don’t have any one player who is a true threat, but that might be the most dangerous part about their team.
“Something I love about our team is we have goals from 11 different players this season,” Hanford coach Kaylie Winston said. “We’re getting a lot from a bunch of different players on our team, which I think is very cool and shows that we play team soccer. We don’t have one super star on our team.”
Senior forward Taylor Matheny is the team’s leading scorer with four goals.
Southridge got the best of Hanford in their first meeting this season, a 2-0 affair on Sept. 17 in Kennewick. But the Falcons have since won five straight, including victories against Class 4A conference contenders Richland and Chiawana. Even though the Falcons and Suns are in different classifications this season, there’s still a spirited rivalry between the two sides.
“As far as Southridge goes, our girls are very excited,” Winston said. “They know they didn’t play very well the first time around and they’re excited to get a second shot at them. The Southridge vs. Hanford rivalry has become one of our favorite games of the season and I think it means just as much to our girls this year as it did last year, regardless of 4A or 3A.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hanford High School.
MCC soccer standings