Kamiakin girls soccer coach Chris Erikson knew that if her team was going to make a deep run in the Class 3A state playoffs, it couldn’t rely solely on Ellie Heiden, the Mid-Columbia Conference player of the year.
So the Braves showed their longtime coach just how deep they were, getting two goals from freshmen Rilee Castilla and another from junior midfielder Courtney Hall in a 3-0 first-round win over Peninsula on Tuesday at Lampson Stadium.
“Rilee was money tonight. For a freshman, she’s pretty studly,” Erikson said of the graceful redhead, who also showed off some strength when she executed a deft spin move in traffic before looping a shot over Seahawks goalkeeper Katie Campbell for Kamiakin’s first goal.
“There aren’t a lot of players that can spin like that. The last player I remember who could do that was Meotis Erikson,” the coach said of her daughter, who set the Big Nine single-season record with 42 goals in 1995 before helping lead Notre Dame to three Final Fours.
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“The defender was behind me. I knew the goalie was behind her, so I turned and shot,” Castilla said. “I thought, ‘Is it going to go in?’, and then it just curled into the net.”
Castilla’s goal was a long time coming for Kamiakin, which went scoreless in the first half. Both teams had similar stat lines heading into the locker room at the half — seven shots and two corner kicks apiece — and neither had a very good look at the goal.
“I felt we were going to win, but it also could have been a tie situation,” Erikson said. “We didn’t want that.”
But seven minutes into the second half, the Braves unleashed a torrent of offense that the Seahawks were helpless to stop. After Castilla’s goal, Hall tapped in a bouncer in front of the goal to make it 2-0 in the 55th minute.
“We believed in ourselves. We knew we could do it. We just had to stay focused and play our game,” Hall said. “Once we scored the first one, we knew another one was coming. We were amped up and ready to get the next one.”
Two minutes after Hall’s tap-in, Castilla recorded her second of the game and 16th of the season. And she didn’t have to work nearly as hard for this one, running onto a ball in open space and firing it in from just outside the 18-yard box. “I feel like this team can go really far,” Castilla said. “We worked really hard for this.”
The Braves outshot Peninsula 7-1 in the second half and 14-8 for the game.
“We had a little spell where we broke down on defense,” Seahawks coach Jenny Nicholls said. “We knew (Castilla and Heiden) were dangerous. We expected them to make a difference, and they did. We knew their defense doesn’t let in a lot of goals, and it certainly didn’t.”
Erikson gave a lot of credit to Kamiakin goalkeeper Kelci Young, who took over full-time keeper duty three weeks ago after recovering from a torn ACL. Young made five saves, all in the first half.
“She’s very focused and well-trained,” Erikson said, remembering a corner kick that Young leaped high to snatch away from a mob of Peninsula players hungry to score. “That stuff coming in high, it’s easy to bobble those.
“She’s already proved herself to me.”
Kamiakin (19-1) will advance to the Class 3A state quarterfinals for the second year in a row to face Mt. Spokane (13-6), a team that eliminated the Braves from the playoffs last season. The Braves do have the advantage of 1 p.m. home game Saturday at Lampson Stadium.
In fact, Mt. Spokane beat Kamiakin twice last season — once in the District 5/8 regional tournament and next in the quarterfinals — in Spokane. The Braves are hoping to return the favor this year, having already beaten the Wildcats 2-1 in double overtime Saturday in Kennewick.
“They’ll be back for us, but our kids are still thinking about last year,” Erikson said.
Scoring—1, K, Rilee Castilla, 47:00; 2, K, Courtney Hall, 55:00; 3, K, Castilla, 57:00. Shots—P 8, K 14. Saves—P, Katie Campbell 5. K, Kelci Young 5.