It's not often that Southridge junior Heather Johnson feels out of place on a soccer field. The CBBN scoring leader is usually the one giving other players the wrong-place-wrong-time sort of feeling.
But Johnson admitted feeling a little lost during the final 20 minutes of the Suns' 3-0 CBBN 3A win over Kamiakin on Tuesday in Kennewick. With Southridge ahead 2-0, Suns coach Riley Dodson decided he needed to account for the Braves' speed up front and moved his star forward to sweeper, a position Johnson hasn't played since she was 12.
"It was scary. I had no idea what I was doing," Johnson said with a grin. "I was just chasing the ball and kicking it out."
In the end, the Suns kept a clean slate behind a strong defensive effort led by sure-handed goalkeeper Ingrid Stein, and Southridge earned a share of its second regular-season championship in three seasons. Hanford recorded a 3-1 road win over Eastmont to split the title.
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"It's very fulfilling. I felt we had the team to get it done, and we beat some good teams to do it," said Dodson, who earned his first title as coach after taking over for Greg Sambrano this season.
Southridge's win earned them two straight byes on Thursday and Saturday. The Suns (12-3, 11-2) will have to wait over a week to see who their next opponent is. The No. 2 seed from the Greater Spokane League will play the winner between Pasco-West Valley on Saturday. The winner of that match will travel to Southridge on Wednesday.
"We'll give everybody a couple days off," Dodson said. "A couple of them played 80 minutes and are a little banged up."
The Braves (9-7, 9-5) will play host to Eastmont (8-8, 7-7) on Thursday at Lampson Stadium.
The chilly conditions and strong winds made things a bit tougher on both sides but the Suns had a notable first-half advantage with the wind at their backs.
They got on the board quickly. In the third minute, Kamiakin defenders lost track of Paige Sorenson, leaving her open at the top of the 18-yard box. Sorenson calmly trapped a pass from Heather Johnson from 20 yards out and buried it in the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
"I don't really care about getting goals. It's nice, but I really just want us to win," said Sorenson of her 10th goal of the year. "(Coach Dodson) just wants someone else to step up."
Kamiakin coach Chris Erikson said that her team has been struggling to stay organized on defense, and the goal was a result of more confusion in the back.
"We didn't take care of Heather, and then we forgot to mark up," Erikson said.
Southridge hoped to put at least one more on the board before the half. They got it in the 38th minute when Kamiakin goalkeeper Sydnee Grant blocked Brooke Benecke's liner from the right side, but Johnson was there in front of the net to punch home the rebound for her 26th goal of the year.
She thought she may have sent the shot high, but it ricocheted off the crossbar and bounced across the goal line for a 2-0 lead.
"I got excited because it looked like it was going in, but then it hit the crossbar," Johnson said. "I got lucky."
The Braves were outshot 13-7 but managed a couple of solid opportunities in the second half. In the 48th minute, Kristyn Bohlander broke away from a defender inside the Suns penalty box with some space to work with, but Stein closed the distance in time to smother Bohlander's shot.
"I felt at halftime we had enough strength to come back and score," Erikson said. "But as the clock ticked down we started to get frantic."