KENNEWICK -- The seniors on the Southridge girls soccer team wanted their final game to be an emotional one.
But this wasn't the type of emotion they had in mind.
The Suns ended their dream season a little prematurely with a 1-0 loss to Eastside Catholic on Tuesday in Kennewick in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament.
"It just doesn't feel like it's supposed to be over," said Southridge goalkeeper Ingrid Stein after the game.
Shelby Newell provided the only goal of the match in the 65th minute, taking advantage of some open space at the top of the box to line a shot past Stein. The Suns, who outshot the Crusaders 14-6, pushed forward for a few more chances in the waning minutes, but none came to fruition.
As the final whistle sounded, reigning 3A player of the year Heather Johnson knelt silently at midfield after Southridge's second-half push fell short. Minutes later, she called the seniors together in a tearful farewell.
"It was a great season, ladies," she told them.
It was indeed. The Suns (18-1) swept the CBBN 3A league and regional championships, and the seniors capped an impressive four-year run with a cumulative record of 59-15.
The loss didn't overshadow all those accomplishments in the eyes of Southridge coach Greg Sambrano.
"Instead of dwelling on the loss, I look at all the positive things that happened this year and what we accomplished over the last four years," Sambrano said. "Maybe it hasn't sunk in. Maybe it will (today) when I don't go to practice.
"But I'd rather look at what we did rather than what we didn't do."
The match was tightly contested for the full 80 minutes, with the possession swinging both ways in the first half. Southridge made a strong push after halftime, as Johnson got more directly involved in the offense, recording five shots in the first 18 minutes of the second half.
She led the Suns' best scoring chance in the 51st minute when she ran onto a long service from midfield, dribbled down the right hash and drew Eastside keeper Nemo Thomas off her line. Johnson fired a low shot toward the left corner, but Thomas was in perfect position to deflect the shot.
Southridge also may have been denied a penalty kick in the first half when it appeared Brooke Benecke was knocked to the ground by Thomas inside the Crusaders' box in the 19th minute. No whistle came, however, and play continued.
"The referee didn't determine the outcome. Eastside Catholic beat us, not the referee," Sambrano said. "You've got to get it done."
The Crusaders (11-6-5) were winless in two previous state appearances but made this one count. Eastside Catholic will play Mt. Spokane (11-7) in the 3A quarterfinals Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Seattle,
They didn't have much advance scouting, but they knew Johnson was a key player.
"She's really as special as everybody says she is. We just tried to make sure she was double-teamed at all times," said Crusaders coach Scott Brayton.
Finally, EC broke the scoreless tie with 15 minutes left in regulation after a long free kick by Quinn Phillips. Newell, who was born in Pasco and still has family in the Tri-Cities, controlled a short clearance by the Suns defense and -- from about 20 yards out -- beat Stein to the left corner.
"I'm usually hitting those over the net," Newell said.
But she picked a perfect time for her first goal of the year.
"I think we've struggled a lot this year in terms of getting balls played up and out of the back," Sambrano said. "We needed a little more composure on that. We didn't get the ball cleared out, and they made us pay."
Scoring--1, EC, Shelby Newell, 64:00. Shots--EC 6, S 14. Saves--EC, Nemo Thomas 7. S, Ingrid Stein 5.