KENNEWICK -- Kamiakin coach Chris Erikson and Southridge coach Greg Sambrano are hoping that an old adage will serve them well during the 3A girls state soccer tournament.
If an unusually tough league season didn't kill their teams, chances are it made them even stronger.
The unbeaten Suns (18-0) are having their best season yet, a pretty strong statement for a team that won the league title and finished third at state in 2010. This year, Southridge, which is ranked No. 1 in the latest Seattle Times poll, has swept the league and district titles and is looking for another trip to the Final Four in Lakewood.
But the road hasn't been easy. The Suns have been pushed to the limit by several teams in the CBBN 3A, winning five league games by just one goal and three more in overtime or a shootout.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"The thing I like is that we've showed a lot of resiliency," Southridge coach Greg Sambrano said. "I tell the kids that no matter what the score, we're going to come back because that's the kind of team we are."
Today, Southridge will see how well a tough league slate has prepared it for state. The Suns will play host to Eastside Catholic (10-6-5), which finished third in the competitive Metro Mountain League, at 6 p.m. today in a first-round match at Southridge High School.
"We know they're good. They've got a lot of club kids. They're a direct, hard-working team," Sambrano said. "Now it's one and out. There's no tomorrow for the team that loses. At the same time, we've got a very confident group of kids."
The Crusaders are led by junior K.K. Standish and senior Malia Bachesta, who have combined for 18 goals and five assists. EC keeper Nemo Thomas has recorded seven shutouts behind a defense that has allowed just three goals in its last nine games.
That defense will be tested, however, by Southridge forward Heather Johnson (31 goals, 16 assists), who recently became just the third player in Big Nine/CBBN history to eclipse the 100-goal mark for a career. Brooke Benecke (15 g, 4 a), Michelle Foster (8 g, 7 a), Hannah Sanders (8 g, 5 a) and Katherine Tsoukalas (6 g, 11 a) all helped the Suns outscore teams 77-21 this year.
The Suns' back line of Randi Andreatta, Emma Sanders, Erin Wallace and Megan Sanders have helped keep things clear in back. Southridge also has a returning all-CBBN goalkeeper in Ingrid Stein.
Kamiakin, ranked 10th by the Times, has been tested, too, winning five one-goal games in league and another in a shootout. The Braves have also lost two league games by one goal and two more in a shootout.
But the losses haven't soured Kamiakin's ambition. Even after a 2-1 shootout loss to Southridge in the regional title Saturday, the Braves were still confident they can make a good postseason run.
That run can start today, when Kamiakin (14-5) plays host to Mt. Spokane (10-7) at 6 p.m. at Lampson Stadium. The two teams met last Tuesday in the sub-regional semifinals in Spokane. The Braves battled hard and came away with a 2-1 shootout win.
"Perhaps we'll have a little advantage at home, but they're a good team. They didn't get here by accident," Erikson said. "They've got a really good target player who is very big, and they're good at playing the long ball. I think we play quicker and with good ball control."
The Braves, who have two fourth-place finishes over the last five years, are making their 17th state appearance.
Kamiakin is led by sophomore forward Ellie Heiden (19 g, 12 a), Kyra Brannan (11 g, 9 a), Lexi McQueary (8 g, 4 g) and Chandra Stevenson (3 g, 10 a). The defense is anchored by all-CBBN 3A goalkeeper Sydnee Grant (1,277 minutes, 0.75 gaa, 5 shutouts), and all-CBBN defender Macy Brannan.
2A state playoffs, Prosser (14-4-1) at East Valley-Spokane (13-6), 5 p.m., Wednesday
Prosser has its own member of the 100-goal club in Helen Petersen, who as a senior led the CWAC in goals for the fourth consecutive season. She's got 36 goals this season and 147 for her career.
Incredibly, she has done it with her coach occasionally pulling her back into defense in critical games. Wherever Petersen plays, she'll be critical to the Mustangs' success.
Against the Wildcats, a team that outscored opponents 47-21 this season, Prosser will need all of its weapons, including Madison Moore (24 g) and goalkeeper Jamie White (1,363 minutes, 1.23 GAA, 8 SO).
1A state playoffs, Kiona-Benton (14-5) at Newport (17-2), 5 p.m., Wednesday
The Bears have their work cut out for them against the Northeast A League champions and winners of their last six games.
But Ki-Be, which has won seven of its last nine games, can cause some trouble with scoring duo Taylor Brown (13 g, 9 a) and Bailey Schroeder (11 g), plus a strong keeper in Blake Hirschi (1,481 min., 1.08 GAA, 8 SO).