The Hanford High School girls soccer team established itself in the history books two weeks ago, when it won the regional championship and advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2010.
The Falcons have a chance Friday to break a much longer drought.
If Hanford (18-3) beats West Valley of Yakima (18-2) in the Class 4A state semifinals, it will play in a state championship game for the first time since 1990.
With all that history on the line, coach Kaylie Winston and the Falcons are just focusing on their upcoming match against the Rams.
“Our only focus is that we have to beat West Valley on Friday night,” Winston said. “All year, we’ve been telling them you have to take it one game at a time, so we have to take care of business Friday night.”
After Hanford came out of the regular season as the Mid-Columbia Conference co-champion with Southridge, Winston feels her team is battle-tested and ready to make a championship run.
“Playing in those tough games, playing in the league we play in where, I mean, two of the teams in our league are in the top four, that’s huge,” Winston said. “We’re used to playing huge games against Southridge, Kamiakin, Chiawana. Those are three, four teams almost, that were in the state tournament.”
Hanford opened its season with a 3-2 loss against West Valley, part of a 3-3 start for the Falcons. Since then, Hanford has rattled off 15 consecutive victories and allowed just six goals in that stretch.
In addition to senior goalkeeper Kelsee Winston, who had four saves in Hanford’s two shootout wins in the regional playoffs, Dani Mendoza has provided the Falcons with some clutch performances in the postseason.
Mendoza tallied three goals and an assist in the five regional and state playoff games. She also recorded the eventual shootout winner in the regional championship game against Chiawana.
Mendoza said the Falcons staying mentally tough over the next two days will be critical to their success.
“I think we just need to stay composed and have faith in each other when things go wrong,” Mendoza said, “because things are going to go wrong, and we have to stick together.”
Kickoff between the Falcons and Rams is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, where all the weekend’s 3A and 4A matches will be played.
If the Falcons beat West Valley, which lost to Issaquah in the state championship game last year, they will face either Skyline (making its seventh semifinal appearance in the past 11 years) or Camas (third at state last season) in the title match at 4 p.m. Saturday. The semifinal losers will play in the third/fourth-place game at noon.
SOUTHRIDGE VS. BISHOP BLANCHET: In contrast to Hanford, the Suns are no strangers to playing on the final weekend of the state playoffs. A win over the Braves would advance Southridge to the Class 3A championship match for the third consecutive year.
After a so-so performance in their 3-0 state playoff-opening win over Mountain View of Vancouver, the Suns (19-2) bounced back with a come-from-behind, 2-1 quarterfinal win over Lakeside of Seattle that pleased coach Greg Sambrano.
“I think we played one of our best games,” Sambrano said. “I think everybody stepped up. We gave up a goal, and we just kept playing. That game was tough because the wind was blowing, so it was hard for both teams to play. But I thought we responded well, getting that second goal and then a game-winning goal.”
If Southridge gets past Bishop Blanchet (12-6-3), it could get a rematch with undefeated Seattle Prep — the team that beat the Suns in the 2015 state championship game.
While Southridge certainly would like to exact some revenge against the Panthers, Sambrano said his team is wholly focused on taking care of the task at hand: Bishop Blanchet.
“To be honest with you, all we’re focusing on right now is winning Friday’s game, and then we’ll worry about Saturday,” Sambrano said.
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. Friday.
Saturday, the championship game will begin at 2 p.m., and the consolation match will kick off at 10 a.m.