KENNEWICK -- Heather Johnson is used to getting a lot of attention on a soccer field.
Luckily for the Southridge girls soccer team, she knows how to use that to her advantage.
Johnson, the 2010 3A player of the year, scored a goal and assisted on Hannah Sanders' eventual game-winner Tuesday during the Suns' 2-1 CBBN 3A victory at Southridge High School.
"When we play a team like Hanford, everybody is going to fight for everything. Our team defense was good, and we were organized at midfield," said Suns coach Greg Sambrano, who honored his 10 seniors before the game, pointing out to the crowd that this was the most successful senior class Southridge had ever had.
"It came down to putting good pressure on the ball," Sambrano said. "An area we need to work on is making that final pass."
With two games remaining in the regular season, the Suns clinched at least a tie for their second consecutive CBBN 3A league title. But after sharing the title with Hanford last season, Southridge isn't looking for another co-championship.
"We want to go to up to Eastmont and take care of business," Sambrano said.
Johnson came into the game needing three goals to reach 100 for her career, and Suns fans hoped she might do it at home. She got one in the 14th minute, muscling her way up for a header at the far post off a corner kick from Randi Andreatta to make it 1-0.
On Southridge's second goal, Johnson set up on a free kick from 28 yards out to the right of the net with just 10 minutes left in regulation. She nearly scored on a virtually identical free kick early in the second half, but the ball ricocheted off the crossbar to the ground and away from the net.
This time, everyone -- including the Falcons defense -- was expecting another shot just like it.
Johnson had other plans.
"I looked over and said, 'Hannah. HANNAH!' " said Johnson, indicating to her teammate that a pass was coming.
Johnson then slotted a pass through the defense and into Sanders, who slanted in from the top of the 18-yard box. Sanders took the ball in stride and simply tapped it into the far corner past Hanford goalkeeper Emily Busselman for a 2-0 lead.
"I thought, 'Oh god, it's coming to me,' " Sanders said of her sixth goal of the year.
The Falcons made a late run, putting extra pressure on the Suns defense in the final minutes. Midfielder Sydney Shintaffer made the most of the push, scoring on a well-placed shot from 25 yards out to cut the lead to 2-1.
"We started passing the ball around, making as many passes around the defense as we could," Shintaffer said. "We have to learn to play hard for the full 80 minutes."
The Falcons did a good job marking Johnson during the game. Sophomore defender Bailey Ruby denied Johnson any clear opportunities on goal, getting just four shots during the run of play. But Hanford coach Mart Oostrum was frustrated that his team couldn't keep up a consistent attack against the top-ranked Suns.
"I think we have to start believing we can compete against the better teams for a whole game and not for just 10 minutes a half," Oostrum said. "We got a nice goal, but it came too late."
All season, Oostrum has been hoping one of his players will emerge as a difference-maker in the big games.
"You're asking for a special quality from somebody. Somebody like Ellie Heiden of Kamiakin or Heather Johnson. We don't have that yet," Oostrum said. "We have the players to play at a high level. We just can't get over the hump of losing these close games."
Scoring--1, S, Heather Johnson (Randi Andreatta), 14:00; 2, S, Hannah Sanders (Johnson), 70:00; 3, H, Sydney Shintaffer (Deanna Quadrel), 74:00. Shots--H 6, S 14. Saves--H, Emily Bussman 3. S, Ingrid Stein 3.