LAKEWOOD -- There's a saying at the WIAA girls soccer semifinals: It's what you do on the final day that counts.
What a team does Friday isn't as likely to be remembered as what happens on trophy day. That outcome will be burned into players' memories and immortalized in school trophy cases for years to come.
The Southridge girls soccer team ended its first-ever trip to the Final Four the right way, beating Prairie 1-0 on Saturday in the consolation final at Harry Lang Stadium to earn a third-place trophy. It's the second-highest finish by a Southridge team in any sport in school history. The Suns won the 3A state baseball championship in 2004, the school's only state title.
"I thought we represented the school very well and represented the CBBN really well," said Suns coach Riley Dodson. "A couple people came up to me after (Friday's 2-0 loss to Seattle Prep) and say that was really the state championship."
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Michelle Foster, a freshman midfielder, scored the game's only goal in the 15th minute, controlling a cross from the left flank by Heather Johnson. The pass came in slightly behind Foster, forcing her to break stride and backtrack for the ball. But she recovered quickly, wheeling around to her left before driving a shot into the upper right corner.
"Heather is so strong on the ball, obviously. I knew she had the ability to slot it through," said Foster, who led the CBBN 3A with 13 assists in the regular season.
"I kind of saw it going over the goalkeeper's head. I always have a feeling about those," she said.
A good feeling?
"Yeah, I felt like it was going in," she said, smiling.
It was Foster's sixth goal of the year but her second game-winner in the last three contests. Her second-half goal in last Saturday's 3-2 quarterfinal win over Decatur broke a 2-2 tie and decided the match.
"I can't say enough about Michelle. She had tired legs so I pulled her at one point, but it made a big difference," Dodson said. "For her to score the game-winning goal in the quarterfinals and then again (Saturday) is a big deal."
Suns goalkeeper Ingrid Stein came up big in her final start of the year. The first-team All-CBBN junior played virtually every minute in goal for Southridge this year, but she was eager for a chance at redemption after Friday's loss.
"That's my favorite word: redemption," Stein said. "We were able to put (the loss) behind us. We know we made it this far, and not many teams get to do that."
Stein didn't get tested much except for the final 20 minutes, during which the Falcons put some good pressure on her. She came off her line to stonewall a Prairie forward on a one-on-one breakaway in the 59th minute. The offsides flag went up, meaning the play would have been nullified anyway, but Stein made her point.
In the 72nd minute, she stopped another breakaway -- this time a 2-on-1 -- snatching Hannah Hainline's soft liner out of midair.
Stein's last save with just three minutes remaining, however, may have been her biggest. Falcons' forward Heather Corral ran onto a ball off a long throw in and, from 18 yards, fired a low liner that Stein dropped down to save.
"When Ingrid is back there you can always count on her," Johnson said
The win capped an amazing year for Johnson, the CBBN 3A Player of the Year who set Southridge school records for goals (31) and assists (18) this season. The fact that she was held without a goal at the Final Four didn't bother her one bit.
"Nope. We got a point on the board. That's what matters," she said. "I don't really care if I score as long as we win."
Scoring -- 1, S, Michelle Foster (Heather Johnson), 15:00. Shots -- P 7. S 11. Saves -- P, Shiori Baba 3. S, Ingrid Stein 5.