TENINO — It was like deja vu all over again here on Wednesday evening.
Just three days after surviving a close shave victory over Montesano for the district title, the Beavers again waited until the shootout period to separate themselves from their foe. This time around the apparent team of destiny from Tenino was able to take out South Whidbey by a score of 2-1 to start their run in the State 1A girls soccer tournament.
While Saturday’s win over the Bulldogs marked the first district title in the history of the Tenino girls soccer program, Wednesday’s win represented the first state win for Beavers girls soccer. With those milestones secured, Tenino now stands just one victory away from a guaranteed trophy finish in the state tournament
“It’s crazy man. I mean this is the first state victory in program history. We just keep doing firsts. We keep making history and it’s insane to be in the final eight,” said Tenino coach Kevin Schultz. “It’s unfortunate for (South Whidbey) because they’re a good team. Both teams had 17 wins coming in and it’s unfortunate we don’t have an RPI in soccer because this should not have been a round-of-16 game.”
After a scoreless first half, Grace Vestal gave Tenino a 1-0 lead in the 46th minute thanks to free kick by Brieanna Dell that landed in the danger zone for the Falcons. After a couple quick ricochets, Vestal found herself in position to redirect the ball untouched into the back of the net from her point blank position.
That lead lasted a fleeting 16 minutes until Ashton Helseth knocked in a score for South Whidbey with a free kick that eked its way between the keeper’s mittens and under the crossbar.
“It was just an unfortunate hand ball that led to a free kick for them,” noted Schultz.
With that score in hand, the Falcons looked for a moment as though they might seize control of the game by holding possession in the Tenino half of the field far longer than any Beaver could have been comfortable with. However, the Stone City soccer gals were able to regain their druthers in time and pushed the game into extra time with the 1-1 score still intact.
Alivia Hunter, a sophomore defender for Tenino, noted that her teammates rallied around each other down the stretch to help ensure they would be able to host another state game.
“I think right when it happened we were kind of down but right in that moment we turned to each other and said, ‘We need to get it back!’ We didn’t drop our energy and we knew we had to do whatever to at least keep it tied,” said Hunter, who was tasked with marking the Falcons primary offensive weapons all game long.
That renewed resolve allowed Tenino to get back on the offensive in both overtime periods but neither team was able to find a seam that led to a game-winning score. That’s when Tenino found themselves right back in their comfort zone — The fabled realm of extra kicks.
“Once we went to PKs, we were really confident as a team because we had practiced those and we won last time off of PKs. We practice them everyday and it’s just a muscle memory thing for us at this point. Plus, we have a ton of confidence in our goalie,” noted Hunter.
Schultz agreed with his player’s assessment of the anxiety inducing situation.
“I was kind of happy that it went that way in the district title game because we needed to practice it,” said Schultz.
Wednesday’s shootout started off with a particularly bad bounce for the Beavers, though, when a shot by Kelly Murnane bounced her shot off the bottom corner of the goalpost and rolled across the goal line for a score. However, Megan Letts was able to keep the Beavers even when she followed suit with a top shelf goal of her own.
The following Falcons attempt went wide left, with Severse tracking it all the way, before Iris Campesino stepped up and gave the Beavers the edge with a shot that eluded the driving reach of the South Whidbey keeper. Mikenna Wicher then gave the Falcons an inkling of hope when she put her ensuing shot just under the crossbar for a score before Tenino’s Morgan Miner erased their elation with a high rise goal of her own.
Like Icaraus, the next two attempts flew too high and came careening back off the crossbar. But it was the Falcons who wound up crashing back to earth when their final shot clipped the goalpost on its way out of bounds. That miss gave Tenino the definitive 3-2 edge in the shootout and set off another frenzied celebration on their famous black top turf.
Schultz was sure to dole out praise again to his steely keeper, as well as the team’s goalie coach, Mackenzie Schmidt, who he says has helped Severse “take ownership” of the all-important position. Severse finished the game with seven saves to her credit combined between regulation and extra time.
“They must have read your guys’ article because it looked like their kickers were scared of Abby so a lot of their kicks were off. She’s got a reputation for saving PKs,” said the Beavers’ coach. “I think she gives (our team) a lot of confidence back there and they feed off of her energy.”
Defenders like Hunter were also integral to the Beavers success on the night as South Whidbey seemed to own squatters rights for possession at the Tenino 20-yard line right in the middle of the field all game long.
“I think a big part of it was we just kept communicating on the back line. Me and Andee (Schaffran) we just work really well and we know where the other person is all the time,” explained Hunter.
Hunter expects that trend to continue going forward because the Beavers are secure in both their individual roles and overall team identity. She said she hopes that word starts to get out about the ability of a relatively young Tenino team to take on any foe and emerge with high-pressure victories in hand.
“It’s about us making our mark because we’re a different team than everybody else. We’re from a small town but we want everybody to know who we are because we work hard,” explained Hunter.
Tenino will get another chance to make their mark on Saturday when they host Seattle Academy on the black top. That game will be played at 5 p.m.