Kicking off the penultimate week of its regular season, the W.F. West girls soccer team got to add some hardware to its closet early, beating Centralia 2-1 on Tuesday at home.
Combined with their 4-0 win over the Tigers back in September, the Bearcats finished the season with a 6-1 advantage on aggregate, earning them the Chronicle Cup.
“It’s always a fun night, this rivalry,” W.F. West coach Allen Anderson said. “Adding the cup to it makes it that much more fun. It’s something our girls talk about, even in the summertime, looking forward to it. It’s a pretty big deal.”
The win — which came on W.F. West’s senior night at home — makes it three straight graduating classes for the Bearcats that have come in as freshman and left as seniors without ever having lost to Centralia.
But after multiple years of multiple blowouts — and the one-way traffic of the first matchup — the Tigers had the spark needed and the defensive effort to keep things close the whole way. The Bearcats outshot their guests 5-1 in the first half and controlled nearly all of possession, but it would be 30 minutes until they really sniffed close to the goal, when Morgan Rogerson took slightly too hard a first touch on a one-on-one, and goalkeeper Lily Babka was able to charge out and just barely get to the ball first.
As the clock wound down in the half, the Tigers seemed on the cusp of taking things in level. But in stoppage time, W.F. West got its breakthrough, with a long ball floated into the box getting to Emily Mallonee, who flicked it on to Daisy Medel, and Medel sent it right back across goal, where Mallonee slotted it home at the far post to give the hosts the lead.
“We like to play from the outside in and stretch defenses out,” Anderson said. “When we’re able to do that, it’s good to see them execute in games, because that’s what we work on in training.”
But if the Tigers were down on themselves for conceding just before the whistle, they didn’t stay down long. Starting to build more possession to start the second half, Centralia kept the game in the middle third for 10 minutes. In the 50th minute, the Tigers got loose on a long ball, and earned a penalty when the W.F. West defense took them down in the box. Anahi Corona put her penalty past Staysha Fleutsch, leveling the match at 1-1 and breaking an eight-game shutout streak for the Bearcats in the rivalry series.
“We’ve always had a hard time coming back, but today getting that PK, getting ourselves in that position for 10 minutes, being in (W.F. West’s) half, it was amazing to see the girls push and improve for themselves,” Centralia coach Noel Vazquez said.
The goal sparked the Tigers into their best spell of possession of the match. Centralia had a case for another penalty in the 55th minute, when a shot from distance looked like it came off a Bearcats’ arm, but it wasn’t given.
But W.F. West weathered the storm, and soon went back on the attack. In the 63rd minute, Lauren Kelley came out from the back line to make a long run down the left wing and put a low cross in, where Lena Fragner got to it at the near post and barely squeezed it between Babka and the bar.
“That’s something we work on, switching the field from the center and splitting the outside back and center back, and looking to play the ball into our No. 9, making that trailing run,” Anderson said. “They executed it just right.”
That would be just about the last action of the game, as the Tigers couldn’t manage to get much going upfield. The Bearcats finished with nine shots to Centralia’s four, forcing seven saves out of Babka.
Seeing his team’s performance, and the trajectory their season has been on, though, Vazquez saw plenty of positives going forward.
“I think the girls just started believing,” he said. “It’s a lot of this mentality that we haven’t beat Chehalis in like six years or whatever, so they’re used to it. But now they’re actually coming off the field upset, crying, emotional, because they believe that they can make stuff happen. Now they’re looking to what’s coming next season.”
Centralia (5-9, 4-6 2A EvCo) will go to Aberdeen to face the Bobcats on Thursday.
W.F. West (7-6, 6-4 2A EvCo) will be at Black Hills in a matchup to decide third place in the league. Whoever wins the matchup will avoid the pigtail in the district tournament.
“This is great for us and our energy heading into Thursday,” Anderson said. “That was definitely good motivation for them going in.”