PUYALLUP Kelci Young can’t play soccer at Tri-Cities Prep for lack of a girls program, but the junior goalkeeper has sure found a family with the Kamiakin Braves.
Young may not carry a high profile, having played in just two regular season games while recovering from an ACL tear, but she earned her stripes during the Braves’ 2-1 win over Bellevue in the Class 3A state soccer semifinals at Sparks Stadium.
Young made eight saves — many of them at close range — while Kamiakin had to dig its way out of a 1-0 deficit with two goals in the final 21 minutes to give the Braves a shot at the first team championship in school history.
“It’s a great feeling knowing I can have my team’s back,” she said. “I haven’t thought twice that I don’t go to this school. I just feel even more accepted into this family.”
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Ellie Heiden, the Mid-Columbia Conference most valauble player, continued her impressive play despite a sore back, scoring the game-winning goal in the waning minutes of the game. Heiden took advantage of a misplay by Bellvue goalkeeper Sam Fredman, who bobbled a hard liner from Lexi McQueary as Heiden closed inside the 6-yard box.
When the ball popped loose, Heiden was there to knock it into the goal to break a 1-1 tie.
“You can always tell when Lexi is going to hit it really hard,” Heiden said. “She pulls her leg back and recoils, and you’re like, ‘This is a bullet.’
“I didn’t even watch the shot. I was just looking at the goal waiting for it to go in.”
Once it came loose and bounced to the left of the goal mouth, Heiden had the opportunity of a lifetime — the chance to put her team into the championship game.
“The goalkeeper was behind me, the defense was behind me,” she said. “I had to pull it back and place it, so I kind of had to take a deep breath.”
Heiden’s effectiveness wasn’t just on scoring plays. She put pressure on Bellevue’s back third all day.
With 21 minutes left in the game, Heiden made a rush on goal that inspired her team to push forward.
“I tried to psyche the goalkeeper out like I wasn’t going to come at her,” Heiden said. “Then, I was like 1-2-3 and took off as fast as I could. I think I scared her a bit.”
Braves coach Chris Erikson, who has coached Kamiakin in two other championship games — losing both, gave credit to her whole team for sustaining a strong effort over the final 20 minutes.
“It wasn’t just Ellie, but she initiated it,” Erikson said. “The whole unit pushed forward, and now they had to deal with us.
“Also, we weren’t near out of energy. They were getting tired, and we had a lot more to give.”
McQueary, who scored the game-winning goal in a quarterfinal win over Mt. Spokane to put Kamiakin in the semis, scored yet another huge goal to equalize in the 61st minute.
“Lexi McQueary has blossomed,” Erikson said. “She’s getting a lot more confidence, responding to coaching and doing things we’re asking her to do. But it takes the whole team to win games.”
A talented goalkeeper doesn’t hurt, either.
“Don’t get me started on Kelci,” Heiden said. “She had the game of her life. I’ve never seen a goalkeeper perform better than Kelci.
“Today, it wasn’t the person who scored the goals. It was the person who blocked them.”
SCORING — 1, B, Lillie French (Alexis Johnson), 43:00; 2, K, Lexi McQueary (Alicia Nguyen), 59:00; 3, K, Ellie Heiden (McQueary), 79:00. SHOTS — B 16, K 7. SAVES — B, Sam Fredman 1. K, Kelci Young 8.