In scattered showers iconic of the tournament host’s region, the Kamiakin High School girls soccer team couldn’t stop a downpour of Mercer Island goals on Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
The result was a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Islanders in their 3A state semifinal match in a game that featured a few firsts for the Braves; mainly, their first loss.
“It’s always tough to lose,” Kamiakin senior goalkeeper Grace Wilbur said, “but we’ve made it a long way, and I couldn’t be any more proud of my team. They carried us a long way, and I’m just glad we made it here.”
It was also the first time Kamiakin (19-1) gave up three or more goals in a game this season, and the first time it allowed multiple goals since its Sept. 2, season-opening 3-2 win over Gonzaga Prep.
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“On the offensive end, they (Mercer Island) would pull it to one side, then they would have two girls running on the back side,” Wilbur said. “Then they would have one girl up top who was always open. They were able to connect with a lot of their players and get it in the back of the net. They did a great job.”
Kamiakin opened the scoring with what might have been their best goal of the year.
Emma Johnson lined up a free kick from about 20 yards out and to the left of goal. She struck a high, bending shot with her right foot, which Mercer Island keeper Amy Braman was able to get a finger tip on, but couldn’t keep from staying in the far-right post for a 1-0 Kamiakin lead.
“I just kind of recently started practicing them (free kicks) at practice, so we just started letting me do it in games,” Johnson said. “You can usually tell when it’s like a solid kick, so I felt pretty good about it.”
The Islanders (14-1-3) turned the first half into a stalemate when, in the 28th, Kendall Riley collected a rebound off a save by Wilbur and fired on an open net following a corner kick for a 1-all tie.
“We talked about their set pieces, but we weren’t sure which corner kick they were gonna run,” Kamiakin coach Chris Erikson. “They surprised us I think, we thought they were going far post on that first one, and they did their option three that I saw when I looked at them. We weren’t ready for that one.”
MI opened up its lead in the second half when Jackie Gilroy volleyed in an Emily Aaron cross in the 51st, and Elaina Martin scored with an assist from Gilroy in the 56th for a 3-1 game.
But the Braves didn’t quit. They upped the tempo and earned several corner kicks and open balls into the box in the final 20 minutes. Kaeri Ward capitalized on some chaos after a cross by slamming home a rebound off a deflected shot in the 65th to pull Kamiakin within a goal.
“I was proud of them because they stayed in the game,” Erikson said. “I think they believed they could have won. I don’t think that this was like, ‘oh, we can’t do this.’ ”
Mercer Island was able to put the game away with an insurance goal by Jessie Stenburg in the 76th for its final 4-2 lead.
The loss ended a streak of four straight years that a Kennewick school had played in the 3A title game. The city has still yet to produce a girls soccer state champion.
Kamiakin will face the Bellevue (14-6-1) — lost the other Friday semifinal to Stadium 1-0 — at 10 a.m. Saturday in the third-place consolation game. Mercer Island will play Stadium (19-0) at 2 p.m. in the championship match.
“We’re a pretty focused team, and I think they’ll do great,” Wilbur said. “I think if we put our minds to it, we’re gonna take that Number 3 and we’re gonna wear it proud.”
Scoring: MI, Jackie Gilroy G, A; Kendall Riley G; Elaina Martin G; Jessie Stenberg G; Emily Aaron A. K, Emma Johnson G; Kaeri Ward G. Shots (on goal): MI 13(10), K 11(3). Saves: MI, Amy Braman 1. K, Grace Wilbur 6.