The South Kitsap girls soccer team battled Bellarmine Prep Sept. 20, absorbing a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in the final minute of play.
Strongly improved from last year’s team, the Wolves kept the visiting Lions in their end for the majority of the game.
Although both teams transferred from the Narrows League to face new competitors, the Wolves seem up to the challenge of making a name for themselves in the South Puget Sound League.
The Wolves’ center back, Nicole Nystrom, led the defense with strong tackles, preventing numerous attempts by the Lions to attack.
Outside midfielder Savannah Foster’s speed caused problems on the opposite end for Bellarmine Prep.
With 10 minutes gone in the first half, Foster fired off a shot from slightly outside the box. Bellarmine’s goalkeeper was able to tip the ball just off the crossbar to keep the game scoreless.
However, five minutes later, a foul committed by the Wolves led to a free kick from 30 yards out.
An unlucky bounce caught South Kitsap goalkeeper Chandler Greenwood out of position, with the ball flying over her head to open the scoring.
Down by a goal even though the Wolves had controlled most of the game to that point, the Lions created problems for South Kitsap’s midfield. Instead of keeping the ball and connecting passes, the Wolves’ long clears and blind kicks resulted in continual turnovers to the Lions.
Despite the team’s haphazard play, outside back Audrey Sinclair calmly threaded the ball repeatedly to her teammates, which helped the Wolves to regain control.
As the Wolves’ attack started to take shape again, forward Elia Villarma turned her defender around for a shot on goal. The goalkeeper yet again made an impressive save by pushing the ball wide. In the ensuing corner kick, South Kitsap was once again thwarted as Foster’s strong flick struck the cross bar, preserving the Lion’s slender 1-0 advantage.
While she was hesitant to come off her line in the first half, Greenwood returned for the second half and made several spectacular saves.
She kept the game within reach when Bellarmine caught a lucky bounce on a backward header and pressed one-on-one with Greenwood, who slid to stop the forward from putting the ball easily into the net.
With 20 minutes left to play, head coach Christina Boddie made a change by positioning three defenders on the back line and moving another player forward to form a more attacking formation.
As happened in the first half with less than 10 minutes to go, Greenwood made a huge save by sliding out of the box, blocking a Bellarmine blast with her chest to prevent a breakaway by the Lions.
A foul in the box by Bellarmine with seven minutes left momentarily opened the gate to victory for the Wolves.
The referee pointed to the penalty-kick spot for the Lions, where Ashlan Burris easily converted by drilling the ball into the left-hand corner to tie the game at 1-1.
As the game neared the end, the Wolves continued to press forward when a mishandled ball by the Lions keeper created an open-net opportunity for the Wolves to go ahead. Unfortunately for the Wolves, an overeager Villarma sent the ball over the net.
In the last minute of the game, a delayed clearance resulted in a Bellarmine forward reclaiming the ball. The visitor chipped the ball over Greenwood to close out the game with a 2-1 victory for the Lions.
“I think the best way to describe our reaction to that game is ‘upset,”’ Boddie said.
“It’s very unfortunate to get a goal scored on you the last few minutes of a game. The girls worked hard to get a goal back and equal it out. For us to end game in a loss is really upsetting.”
This is Boddie’s second year as head coach for the Wolves. She said the team’s biggest area of focus now is consistency.
“You look at our record, and we’ve won away games but lost some home games,” she said. “We need to be more consistent in how we play.”
Even with the disappointing loss of a hard-fought battle, Boddie said she knows her team is better than how they played against the Lions.
“I think they fought hard throughout the game,” she said, “but we still have areas we need to improve on.
“We need to learn from that game because overall, that play didn’t reflect how we really play. Different teams, different games.”
The SPSL hosts a number of difficult teams that the Wolves have yet to face. Bellarmine, Sumner and Puyallup, which is currently sitting atop the SPSL, all made it to the state tournament last year.
After the loss against Bellarmine, South Kitsap sits in fifth place in league play.
“We have a lot of the season still left and a lot of games to play,” Boddie said.
The Wolves’ next home game is at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 27 against Emerald Ridge.