Ailin Zhang, one of two freshmen starting at forward for Central Kitsap, tries to dribble through the North Thurston midfield during her team’s 1-0 win on Sept. 27. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Ailin Zhang, one of two freshmen starting at forward for Central Kitsap, tries to dribble through the North Thurston midfield during her team’s 1-0 win on Sept. 27. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Central Kitsap blanks North Thurston for third league win

EAST BREMERTON — The Cougars got the early goal they were looking for in Thursday’s league match with North Thurston, and they knew what to do from there.

A 19th-minute goal by Delaney Homewood put the Cougars on top, and their top-notch defense and goalkeeping took them the rest of the way to a 1-0 victory.

The offensive well hasn’t been overflowing this season, but fortunately Central Kitsap has been one of the stingiest defensive teams in the South Sound Conference. The team has conceded just four goals in six league games this season. Only Gig Harbor, which sits atop the league at 6-0-0, has given up fewer.

“We’ve been doing a good job in keeping it out of the net,” head coach Keith Sargent said. “It goes to show you the girls are playing strong defensively. We’re a little younger at the forward position.”

The Cougars have managed only three goals, each coming in a 1-0 win. Thursday’s lineup saw two freshmen, Ryan Bosarge and Ailin Zhang, starting up top, with a third, Ava Hays, swinging up from JV to help out at that position. Meanwhile, senior Autumn Mullins missed the match with an injury and fellow senior Camy Castro was hurt during the first half and had to exit.

The South Sound Conference is a tough place to play when you’re short on varsity experience, but the youngsters pressed on, and it was the freshmen Bosarge who who made the play that helped Central Kitsap earn its goal.

Bosarge made a great run behind the North Thurston defense and a long pass out of the midfield nearly hit her in stride. Though the pass was just ahead of its target, she was tripped up on the play, giving the Cougars a free kick in a dangerous area.

Homewood stepped in to take the kick and fired a rocket into the net to give her team the lead.

“They’re responding well, they’re learning, they’re adapting,” Sargent said. “It’s not easy, but they’re doing well.”

Junior keeper Kiley Hall made a few sharp saves in the match. Perhaps the most crucial came just three minutes into the game when she had to dive to her right to stop a strike by North Thurston’s Annie Hoffman.

The Rams also had a late free kick from just outside the 18-yard box, but Helene Budd chipped it high. That was about all North Thurston could muster. The defense, led by the team’s only other senior, Megan Hedrick, was able to scuttle any other opportunities the Rams attempted to mount.

“Every game, we do a good job defensively — battling, winning balls,” Sargent said. “We just haven’t been able to get that ball in the back of the net.”

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