Central Kitsap midfielder Marielle Arnold (5) battles with Yelm sophomore Emily Schmidlkofer (11) for possession of the ball in the first half of the Cougars’ 2-0 victory. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group).

Cougars play up to expectations in 2-0 win | Girls soccer

BREMERTON — After a tough opening loss to Bainbridge on Sept. 9, the Cougars were already overdue for a break. In the first minute of their first league match against Yelm, they got one.

Sophomore Marielle Arnold’s cross took a friendly bounce off a defender, straight to the right foot of senior Lauren Hudson, who buried it in the back of the net. It was 1-0 and barely a minute had passed in the match.

The final result, a 2-0 victory at home Sept. 12, saw Central Kitsap play up to its expectations of finishing at the top of the South Sound Conference 3A League, capitalizing on the momentum created by the early score.

“We still need to work on a couple of things,” Hudson said after the match. “We have to make sure we’re getting the ball wide, using all of our space, and make sure that we’re staying aggressive throughout the whole entire game, not just part of the game.”

After Hudson’s opening goal, her third of the season, the Cougars dominated possession of the ball for much of the first half, giving the young Tornadoes — a team that fielded a lineup with only three seniors — few opportunities to make a run upfield.

Senior keeper Alyssa Russell was rarely tested, but was there to make a stop when called upon. Yelm’s best chance came about midway through the first half when Yelm sophomore Imani Tustison got past the defense and had room to get a shot on target. But Russell calmly cut the angle and forced Tustison to fire the shot right at her for the save.

While other offensive chances were few and far between for Yelm, Central Kitsap head coach Vicky Webb acknowledged her team is just scratching the surface of its potential as just a few players from last year’s 11-5 squad were not lost to graduation.

“We do need to not react, we need to be proactive when we’re playing,” said Webb. “But it’s our second game and we have a couple of freshmen on the team. We’re short one game due to the loss [postponement] of our game against Stadium. We have players in certain spots they have not played before.”

One of those returners, junior Megan Hedrick, had to anchor the defense as Yelm favored her side of the field when setting up their attack. Hedrick closed off three of the Tornadoes’ best chances with her speed and ability to take the ball from the opposing player in a timely manner.

At halftime, Central Kitsap players and coaches admitted that one goal would not be enough. The Cougars ramped up the offensive pressure and were able to crack the defense one more time late in the second half.

Senior Lindsay Chaffee’s corner kick glanced off the fingers of the Yelm keeper and fell free in the box where Grace Anderson outmuscled her defender for position and buried her chance to seal the victory.

“We lost quite a bit last year, we’re still trying to find who’s going to score for us,” Webb said. “We have players who can put the ball in the net, we just have to find the right combination.”

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at mkrulish@soundpublishing.com.