The Bellevue girls soccer team advanced to the 3A state semifinals with a dramatic 2-1 (3-2 in penalty kicks) victory over the visiting Kamiakin Braves in a penalty kick shootout on Nov. 16.
The win sends the Wolverines back to Sparks Stadium for the third time in the past four seasons. The road to the semifinals has been full of dramatic moments for the Wolverines, including a penalty kick shootout victory against Holy Names Academy to qualify for the state tournament and a one-goal victory in the first round against Southridge.
Bellevue head coach Peter Cochran said making it to Sparks is a rallying cry for the team every year.
“We always strive for excellence and sometimes the margins are really, really narrow,” Cochran said. “They were tonight, they were against Holy Names and they were against Southridge.”
The visiting Braves got off to the perfect start by scoring a 40-yard goal off a free kick in the third minute to take a 1-0 lead.
The Wolverines bounced back from giving up the early goal, creating chances but they were unable to capitalize. The Wolverines got a break late in the first half when the Kamiakin goalkeeper picked up the ball outside of the box, resulting in a free kick for Bellevue just outside of the box. Bellevue midfielder Audrey Miller beat the goalkeeper from the free kick to even the game up at 1-1.
Cochran said the Wolverines bounced back after conceding the opening goal.
“Our girls responded well, it was definitely a gift to give in the first few minutes,” Cochran said. “They gave us a bit of a gift on the second goal, so we got the gift exchange out of the way early.”
Neither team was able to score in the second half, and after two scoreless overtime periods, the game went to a penalty kick shootout.
In the shootout, Bellevue converted three of its four penalty kicks (Zoe Fowler, Morgan Pingree and Halle Fletcher), to take a 3-2 lead in the shootout. Kamiakin midfielder Paige Savage was the fifth shooter for Braves, needing to score to keep their season alive, but Bellevue goalkeeper Ashley Heinz made the save to win the game.
Heinz said she enjoys being in high-pressure situations, especially with the Bellevue student section cheering the team on.
“We practice them after practice almost every day,” Heinz said. “So I’ve gotten lots of practice PKs, so when I get in there, I feel confident.”
Cochran said he was proud of the way his team played, even after losing some of his starters to injuries.
“I thought we had the balance of play,” Cochran said. “I thought we earned our win, even though we had to do it in the most dramatic possible way.”
Kamiakin came into the game with only two seniors on its roster and seven freshmen. Cochran said the Braves deserve a lot of credit for the way they played.
“They’re going to be great for the next several years,” Cochran said. “They’re well-organized and well-coached, it’s tough to go down in a shootout.”
The Wolverines are set to face Lakeside on Nov. 22 in the semifinal at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Cochran said he thinks the team is playing its best soccer in the postseason.
“The team culture and the team vibe is really positive this year, that’s a testament to the seniors,” Cochran said. “I think when their backs are against the wall, they find a way. That’s part of our game, even when things aren’t working out, we found a way these last few games.”
While the Wolverines will be confident if they need to win again in penalty kicks, Heinz said she would prefer to avoid it.