The Montesano Bulldogs girls soccer team has had its share of bad breaks lately.
In Wednesday’s opening round game of the state playoffs against the Bush Blazers, a monumental bad break cost the Bulldogs their season.
Two late goals by Bush — one an own goal on Monte’s part — erased the Bulldogs’ 1-0 lead and led to a 2-1 loss in the Class 1A State Tournament at Jack Rottle Field.
After a scoreless first half that saw Bush (12-5 overall) set the pace of play and hold the majority of possession, Montesano (14-6) took the lead in the opening minute of the second half when midfielder Brooke Streeter, who had been hounded and pressured by Bush defenders the entire game, penetrated into the Blazers’ third and sent a cross toward forward Anna Ayres, who was making a run at goal. Ayres slotted a shot inside the far post to give Monte a 1-0 lead and put a charge into the large crowd of Bulldogs faithful.
Monte’s defense, which allowed just one goal in regulation and overtime play in three games of last week’s district tournament, bent but didn’t break for two-thirds of the game. Though the Blazers held the time of possession and connected on more passes than the Bulldogs, it rarely turned into strong scoring chances. Most of the Blazers’ 10 shots that Monte keeper Ellie Barbo faced were garden variety, sans a hard shot headed for the top shelf that Barbo had to leap to get a hand on, diverting the attempt over the crossbar just before halftime.
But the Blazers continued to apply pressure to Monte’s midfielders and back line in the second half. Bush got its first goal when midfielder Sidney Karjian created some space on a right-side run into Monte’s defensive third, then ripped a low shot on goal from approximately 15-yards out. The shot got past Barbo, who was screened on the play by one of her own defenders, to tie the game at 1-1.
Two minutes later, misfortune reared its ugly head once again for the Bulldogs, who were snake-bitten when an arcing cross sent in toward the Monte goal deflected off a Bulldogs defender and took an odd, fore-spin bounce directly up and over Barbo for a Montesano own goal as the Blazers took a 2-1 lead.
Monte pushed for the equalizer over the final 10 minutes of the game, but the Blazers turned back the Bulldogs at every chance. A Monte corner kick with 3:30 left was cleared by the Blazers defense and a Monte direct free kick by Paige Lisherness from approximately 30 yards out with just seconds left in the game sailed high over the crossbar.
The final whistle blew and Monte’s season was over.
When asked his thoughts on how the game played out, Monte head coach Fidel Sanchez summed up Monte’s fortunes succinctly.
“Unlucky,” he said, referencing the Blazers’ go-ahead goal. “(Bush) played a good game … . But when we go up 1-0, I expect the girls to keep the lead. But that bounce right there, it was very unlucky and this game is not fair. But sometimes, you are on the other end of those things. But we haven’t been on the other end in awhile, so it kind of feels unlucky all the time.”
Montesano lost the District IV title to the Tenino Beavers on Saturday after holding the possession advantage and keeping the undefeated Beavers scoreless through regulation and two overtime periods, only to lose in a penalty-kick shootout.
Wednesday’s loss only exacerbated Monte’s feelings of haplessness.
Sanchez added he felt his team didn’t match Bush’s response to Ayres goal in the second half.
“We were up 1-0, and I thought that would give us a lot of confidence going forward,” he said. “But (Bush) stepped up and we didn’t match their intensity. They kind of woke up and that’s where we faltered a little bit. But I don’t fault my team for that. They did their part. They played hard.”
After a successful season that ended with such a bitter aftertaste, Sanchez wasn’t sure what he’d say to his crestfallen players when entering the locker room after the loss, but he knew how he felt about them.
“I don’t know what I can say, but I know I’m proud of them, that’s for sure,” he said. “They played one heck of a game tonight.”