Though not the championship that the players and coaches had hoped their cross-state trip would yield, the Kamiakin High School girls soccer team got to finish its magical season with a win Saturday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, 1-0 over Bellevue in the Class 3A third-place game.
“We had to talk to ourselves and get motivated,” Kamiakin coach Chris Erikson said. “Even the Bellevue coach said ‘I just want to go home.’ But no, we wanted to walk away with some pride because we had an awesome season — one loss.
“It was hard to lift spirits, but I’m really pleased with how hard they played and I’m proud of ‘em.”
It was a resurgent day for the Braves’ defense, which picked up its 12th shutout of the year a day after allowing a season-high four goals in Friday’s semifinal loss to Mercer Island. Grace Wilbur made nine saves to keep the Wolverines (14-7-1) off the board.
“The shutout, it was back to what we do, which is not letting people score,” Erikson said. “I think people just stepped up, and it was like Kaylee (Kraft, senior defender) said, ‘I’m not going home with a loss to end my season.’ I think everyone bought in to that.”
Bellevue suffered another 1-0 loss to Stadium in Friday’s semifinal match.
Maddie Morgan converted the game-winner for Kamiakin (20-1) in the 16th minute in a classic Kamiakin combination play. Aaliyah Valladares drove the ball down the field and slotted a forward pass between two Bellevue defenders, which found a cutting Morgan open in the penalty box, and she hammered home a shot inside the right post for the game’s only score.
“All we needed was one chance, I guess, and we got that,” said Morgan, a junior forward. “We had a lot of opportunities, and we just needed one goal and that was it.
“It’s really cool because I haven’t been, throughout my high school career, to this tournament yet, so it was cool getting the winner for us.”
The near absence of scoring wasn’t for lack of trying by either team.
Despite leading for nearly 65 minutes, Kamiakin refused to hunker down to preserve the shutout, pushing three forwards ahead nearly the entire game. Britney Donais had a goal waived off early because of a foul, and Izzy Conover soon after had a breakaway called back because she was just offsides — one of three called on the Braves for the day.
On plays that weren’t wiped out by whistles, Kamiakin had 16 shots — 10 in the second half — and Bellevue keeper Annika Strandell had to make eight saves to keep the Wolverines within a goal.
In 31 years as the Kamiakin girls soccer coach, Erikson had never taken an undefeated team to state before this year, and none of her teams had finished the state playoffs with a victory. The Braves had placed second in state three times and fourth three times as well, but this was their first third-place finish.
“It was really a bummer losing yesterday,” Morgan said. “But we came out strong today, and we wanted to win. So it was a really nice feeling getting third, at least.”
Scoring: K, Maddie Morgan G; Aaliyah Valladares A. Shots (on goal): K 16(9), B 14(9). Saves: K, Grace Wilbur 9. B, Annika Strandell 8.