SEATTLE — Central Kitsap nearly had their first match of the 3A state tournament in the bag when disaster struck.
Nearly four minutes into extra time on Wednesday night, Seattle Prep got a free kick from inside 25 yards and managed to tie the match at one, sending it off to overtime.
But the Cougars fought back and stalemated the Panthers through overtime to send the match to penalty kicks. After keeper Kiley Hall made an outstanding diving save on the first Seattle Prep kicker, Central Kitsap converted all five of its opportunities to advance to the 3A quarterfinals.
Freshman Ella Smith scored the match-winner after successful shots by Madisyn Diabo, Madilynn Wood, Delaney Homewood and Ailin Zhang.
“She just buried it,” said head coach Keith Sargent. “All five of them buried it.”
Smith was put in a high-pressure situation, but the youngster didn’t hesitate. Once she set the ball, she picked her target and struck it with the confidence of a pro. Moments later, her entire team was rushing towards her to celebrate.
“I don’t take them that often for club, but coming in I felt pretty confident,” Smith said. “I knew what I needed to do for my team.”
The Panthers put plenty of pressure on the Cougars’ backline, spending a good portion of the game attacking, but the unit held firm. An early corner kick nearly fell to the feet of a Seattle Prep player just in front of the goal line, but Hall got there just in time to smother the ball. That was their best chance until the late goal.
“Seattle Prep was coming at us hard,” Sargent said. “We just weathered the storm.”
Central Kitsap finally got its break early in the second half. Marielle Arnold sprung free forward Paris Agana, who used her speed to pull away from the defense and bury a shot into the lower left corner and give her team a 1-0 lead.
Although they had spent so much time defending, the Cougars were still playing well enough to win and the match never felt tilted against them. But a fortunate foul call gave Seattle Prep the opportunity they needed to tie it.
The coaching staff was particularly pleased at how well their young team responded to the adversity they faced. They stayed cool and calm, never panicking even after giving up a heartbreaking goal late in the match.
“That’s a tall order,” Sargent said. “For the freshmen to come in and the sophomores that are putting their time in, it’s a good feeling for them because it builds for next year and the years to come, so we’re excited about that.”
With the victory, Central Kitsap moves on to face Mountain View, the team that knocked them out of the district tournament last year in penalty kicks. The game time and date is still to be determined, but the team will likely be taking the long trip down to Vancouver on Saturday for an early afternoon match.
“We’re not going to let anyone get in our way,” Smith said. “We’re going to keep going.”
North Kitsap knocks off Cheney 1-0 out in eastern Washington
The Vikings traveled a long way for their first match in the 2A state tournament, but came away victorious, 1-0, over Cheney at Gonzaga Prep.
Audrey Zinn scored with under three minutes remaining to break a scoreless deadlock.
North Kitsap will face Selah — which beat Orting 10-0 in the first round — in the quarterfinals, likely on Saturday afternoon at Karl Graf Stadium.