Updated at 10:28 p.m. Thursday
When the week started, the Kamiakin High School girls soccer team was facing a tall task with three tough games over five days to keep their perfect record intact.
With a 1-0 victory over Richland on Friday at Lampson Stadium, the Braves are now just one game away from getting through their toughest week of the season with a zero in the ‘L’ column.
Kaeri Ward was the hero for Kamiakin (12-0, 11-0), scoring a goal in the 20th minute that turned out to be all the team would need because of a stupendous performance in goal from Grace Wilbur. The senior made two great saves to record the team’s seventh shutout of the season (sixth in the past seven games).
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“And Richland was hunting for a goal,” Kamiakin coach Chris Erikson said. “The whole defensive group, Bella (Nicacio), Rylie (Clark), Kaylee (Kraft), Grace (Wilbur) ... all of them, they played a great game. It’s always nice to have that shutout.”
The victory secured Kamiakin the MCC title — let alone the league’s No. 1 Class 3A seed for the Greater Spokane League crossovers — with a sweep of the Bombers (11-2, 9-2), even though the teams could, in theory, end the regular season with identical league records.
After dominating the pace from the get-go — Richland keeper Emily McDonald unofficially had to make eight first-half saves — the Braves cashed in when Britney Donais crossed in a ball to Kaeri Ward from 10 yards out for a right-footed kill.
“I threw the ball in at the beginning of the play, and we’ve been working on the slot, so I knew I had to get to the slot,” Ward said. “When Britney got the ball, she made a perfect pass, and I just knew I had to make it. And I put it in the back of the goal.”
“It felt really good to finally get one in,” Donais added. “We know a lot of these (Richland) girls, so it felt really good to actually finish one of our opportunities.”
Donais sandwiched the goal with breakaways in the 19th and 21st that easily could have made it 2- or 3-0.
In fact, that was the theme of the game. Kamiakin seemed to live around the penalty box for 80 minutes, but McDonald and the Bombers defense were able to keep it close with great stops.
It was a solid enough performance to make Richland the first MCC team to lose to Kamiakin by a one-goal margin. The Braves beat Gonzaga Prep 3-2 in their nonleague season opener, and their next closest contests were a 3-1 win over Chiawana on Tuesday and a 2-0 shutout against Hanford on Oct. 3.
“It builds up our confidence a lot, because we know that, even if it’s 1-0, we can still win,” Ward said. “We don’t have to score any more goals than that ... but it is good to score more goals.”
THANK YOU, SENIORS
Though junior forwards Izzy Conover and Maddie Morgan have grabbed the spotlight this season, as two of the MCC’s top three scorers, the Braves seniors have provided plenty of heroics throughout this special start to the season.
The night belonged to those upperclassmen, as Wilbur, Aaliyah Valladares, Kraft, Kahlea Sullivan and Mikayla Hunter were honored before the game as part of Senior Night.
“You could just tell, when we were doing senior introductions, there’s a special type of chemistry on this team,” Erikson said. “The players know what they have to do as individuals to make the team the best it can be. You can really see them communicating out there, and they know where everyone is supposed to be.”
Kamiakin: Nearly through its three-game gauntlet this week, the Braves host Hanford (8-5, 7-4) on Saturday. “We’re gonna get some rest tomorrow and make sure we’re ready for Hanford,” Ward said, “because we know they’re gonna come out strong.”
Richland: Hosts Pasco (2-10, 1-10) on Tuesday in its penultimate game of the regular season. A win would guarantee at least a tie for the Bombers with Chiawana as the No. 1 4A teams in the MCC.
Scoring: K, Kaeri Ward G; Britney Donais A. Saves: R, Emily McDonald 12. K, Grace Wilbur 2.