Chris Erikson has used every motivational trick in the book in her 26 years as Kamiakin girls soccer coach.
Before Saturday’s Mid-Columbia Conference showdown with longtime rival Richland, all it took to fire her team up was a look at the standings, which reflected Kamiakin’s slim one-game lead over the Bombers (7-4 overall, 7-3 MCC).
While a win would give the Braves some serious breathing room in hopes of their first league title since 2009, a loss would lock the two teams up in a tie for first.
“I showed them this (a color-coded copy of the MCC standings) and said, ‘See where we are? If we lose today, we’re in serious trouble,’ ” Erikson said before the Braves posted an impressive 2-1 win over the Bombers on a beautiful day at Lampson Stadium.
Ellie Heiden scored her 10th goal of the season, rocketing a free kick from 25 yards off the hands of Richland goalkeeper Samantha Beck and just under the crossbar in the 22nd minute to give Kamiakin a 1-0 lead.
“I’ve taken three (free kicks) this year, and I’ve hit the post each time,” Heiden said. “I was just waiting for the sound of the ball to hit the bar.”
When Heiden wasn’t scoring, the lightning-fast junior was keeping the Bombers’ defense busy with off-ball runs to the corners and effective playmaking.
“We moved her around today. She has improved so much,” Erikson said of the defending state champion in the Class 3A 200- and 400-meter dash. “This was a huge win.”
Kamiakin (10-1-1, 9-1) took a 2-0 lead in the 29th minute when Rachel Young took a pass in stride from Sarah Burns down the left wing, took a few dribbles and fired a low shot toward the far corner. Beck had a good angle on the shot but couldn’t get low enough to stop it.
“Both goals were clinically beautiful,” Erikson said.
Richland’s goal, however, probably was the prettiest tally of the day. It just came a little too late to change the game.
In the 79th minute, Bombers defender Serena Robertson sent an outlet pass up to midfielder Samantha Heilman, who tapped a perfectly timed pass to Kirsten Calmus rushing toward the goal. Calmus took one touch and blasted a shot past Sydnee Grant into the upper left corner to cut the lead to 2-1.
“The goal at the end was very nice,” Richland coach Sara Elfering said. “It was definitely not our best showing by far. We had a quarter of the chances compared to our last several games, and that makes a big difference. The more chances you have on goal, the more chances you have to get in the goal.”
Heiden said the field turf at Lampson Stadium might have played a small role in the victory as well. The Bombers play their home games on a grass field, and though the Braves practice on the grass field at Edison Elementary, they play all their home games at Lampson.
“On turf, the ball plays much faster, and we’re a faster team,” Heiden said. “Plus, everybody always plays better on their home field.”
Scoring—1, K, Ellie Heiden, 22:00; 2, K, Rachel Young (Sarah Burns), 29:00; 3, R, Kirsten Calmus (Samantha Heilman), 79:00. Shots—R 12, K 11. Saves—R, Samantha Beck 4. K, Sydnee Grant 6.