It’s not common for a freshman to start in central defense, a position usually reserved for the most poised and experienced fullbacks.
But Kamiakin’s Rachel Ensign showed she was up to the task Saturday, preventing the game-tying goal in the final minute in the Braves’ 2-1 Mid-Columbia Conference win over Chiawana in Pasco.
The Riverhawks were making a strong push at the end of the second half, getting off six shots in the final eight minutes with a one-goal deficit. Their best chance was their last one, when Braydey Hodgins fired a shot off the crossbar with just over a minute to go. The ball bounced back out to Molly Sullivan on the rebound, and, with Kamiakin goalie Sydnee Grant out of position, tapped it toward what looked like an open net.
“I thought (Sullivan) was going to score,” Ensign said.
But that’s where Ensign saved the day. Stationed in the center of the frame, right on the goal line, she intercepted the shot and cleared it away from danger to preserve the Braves’ win and break a first-place tie with Chiawana in the MCC.
Ensign, who plays for the Three Rivers Soccer Club, said she was just doing her job.
“I’m supposed to cover low,” she said.
Braves coach Chris Erikson likened Ensign to a “baby in diapers”, saying she is still learning Erikson’s defensive system. But Erikson has been pleased with the overall results when teaming her with Lauren McKinney in the middle.
“(Ensign) really saved our bacon, and Lauren was terrific,” Erikson said. “We needed that win, because we really fell on our face against Hanford.”
The Riverhawks (7-3 overall, 6-2 MCC) got on the board first, scoring in the 22nd minute after a free kick from midfield by Courtney Winston. The Kamiakin defense headed the ball up in the air in an attempt to clear, but the ball landed in front of Chiawana senior forward Lexi Miller, who settled it and beat Grant inside the left post for a 1-0 lead.
The Braves (7-1-1, 7-1) tied the score at 1 just before halftime. Defender Samantha Walter found midfielder Brianna Turley on a throw in from about 35 yards away, where Turley turned and calmly drilled a soft liner that arced over the head of Hawks’ goalkeeper Cydni Cottrell.
The go-ahead goal came in the 70th minute when senior midfielder Megan Young called to her sister, sophomore midfielder Rachel Young, for the ball just outside the Chiawana 18-yard box.
Megan, making her return from a dislocated knee, made her shot count, lofting it over Cottrell an into the far corner for a 2-1 Kamiakin lead.
“After my injury, I just wanted to go out and play as hard as I could,” Megan said.
The Riverhawks held a slight edge in possession for much of the first half but got their best chances in the second half. Along with Sullivan’s last-minute opportunity, Chiawana had another chance in the 61st minute when Hodgins got under a corner kick from Miller and redirected it just inside the near post.
But Grant dove to her left to make the stop to keep the game tied at 1.
“They’ve got a great goalkeeper. We’ve just got to find a way to bury it in there,” Riverhawks coach Rich Zoller said. “We just didn’t do a good enough job possessing.”
Scoring—1, C, Lexi Miller (Courtney Winston), 22:00; 2, K, Brianna Turley (Samantha Walter), 39:00; 3, K, Megan Young (Rachel Young), 70:00. Shots—K 15, C 15. Saves—K, Sydnee Grant 7. C, Cydni Cottrell 6.