POULSBO — When Sophia Pixton stepped into the net in the bottom of the second round of Tuesday night’s shootout, her team’s season was on the line.
A North Kitsap shot had just been saved, so she knew she had to come up big to help pick up her teammate, and she studied her adversary carefully.
“She looked to my left and I took that as a sign she was going to go to her right,” Pixton said.
And with that, she made an all-out dive to her right to stop Mark Morris defender Presley McClung’s shot. Pixton ended up making two more saves in the shootout. Charlotte Bond, Mia St. Peter and Alaina Marcotte all scored to help the Vikings advance to the quarterfinals of the 2A state tournament with a 3-2 victory.
“If it wasn’t for Sophia, we would not be in this position,” head coach Greg St. Peter said. “She has been a major, major factor for us.”
The Vikings dominated the run of play for much of the game, but were occasionally put back on their heels by the Monarchs speed and one-on-one skills. Their quick strike ability could have spelled disaster for a North Kitsap squad that has had some trouble scoring goals in recent games.
But the players were up to the challenge of going toe-to-toe with a quality Mark Morris attack. The Vikings overcame a pair of one-goal deficits to force overtime and the eventual shootout.
“I think this was our best game of the season so far, and the girls learned from last game,” St. Peter said. “It was really disappointing to not get that No. 1 seed in state. That was motivation enough.”
North Kitsap scored a beautiful goal with just six minutes to go in regulation to tie the match. Pixton threw a long ball out to Abigail Ginn on the right side line, and the Vikings went into the counter attack at full speed. The ball traveled from Ginn to Bond, then St. Peter, and finally Isla Lester dribbled in and scored.
The Vikings had completely outplayed the Monarchs in the second half but were in danger of being eliminated after Madison Pond’s 66th minute goal. Lester’s goal was the payoff for all of that hard work.
“I think it came down to individual play and confidence, and it started to be contagious a little bit,” St. Peter said.
The Monarchs took a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute when Heaven Burr was taken down in the box for a penalty kick. Macie Balkin converted from the spot.
Less than a minute later, Kamora McMillian got free on the left side and hit a solid strike on net. A save was made, but Ginn was there to put home the rebound.
The win sends North Kitsap on to the state quarterfinals against Liberty, the defending 2A champions and the team that eliminated the Vikings a year ago. The match will likely take place Saturday with the time to be determined.
The Patriots no longer have their star goal scorer, Makenna Carr, who is now playing at the University of Washington, but they are still quite the formidable foe. Liberty has a 14-2-2 record and finished in second place in the tough KingCo 2A/3A League.
“[I’m] super excited. I couldn’t be happier,” Pixton said. “I love this team.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.