By Jenni Wilke
For The Beachcomber
The Vashon High School girls’ soccer team started off a week of playoff games playing Bellevue Christian at home on Tuesday, Nov. 2.
Right from the start, Vashon took control of the game, playing aggressively and connecting passes. Although the ball mostly stayed in the midfield, Vashon created a few opportunities in the box and won a corner kick all within the first 15 minutes of play.
At the 30-minute mark, co-captain Phoebe Wilke fouled a Bellevue player at the 50-yard line and the ref awarded the Vikings a free-kick. Lining up for a well-rehearsed set-piece, Bellevue kicked the ball right into the middle of the box. One of their forwards was able to get her foot on the ball and brought it down for a neat cross, placing the ball right in front of the goal. Vashon’s goalie, Zoe Nowicki, had no chance to block the shot as another Bellevue forward tapped the ball into the back of the net.
Just ten minutes later, Bellevue was in the box again and a hand ball was called against the sophomore defender, Alana Bass. The ref awarded a penalty kick to Bellevue. Amazingly, Nowicki read the kick and managed to block the shot, only to have the kicker send it back in off the rebound. Bellevue entered the half with a 2-0 lead.
Despite being down by two, the home stands were filled with cheers and whistles as the team honored its six seniors and their families during halftime. As a testament to the depth and versatility of the entire team, these six players have scored a combined total of 20 goals this season.
With a new line-up placing more players in offensive positions, Vashon began the second half determined to get on the board. Within 10 minutes, the Pirates were awarded a free kick just outside the box. Sophomore forward Mallory Keenan sent in a perfect ball landing just in front of the far post. Unfortunately, freshman forward Besa Hruska was unable to get her head on it and Vashon lost the opportunity to close the gap on the score.
With increasing intensity, Vashon kept pushing towards the goal. Midway through the second half, senior co-captain Phoebe Wilke won a corner kick for Vashon. The Pirates’ other co-captain sophomore, Linnea Heuschert, took the kick and junior Vera Moses was able to settle it for a pass to senior Franki Brown who took the shot and scored.
Hopes renewed, Vashon battled until the end of the game trying to even up the score. In the last ten minutes alone, the Pirates had at least five solid shots on goal. However, it wasn’t enough, sending Bellevue on to play (and likely lose to) Klahowya on Thursday night. Vashon knew they would play (and likely defeat) East Jefferson that same night and face Bellevue for a rematch on Saturday.
Although they beat the East Jefferson Rivals twice during the regular season, Vashon looked a little nervous as they took the field Thursday, Nov. 4, at Mount Tahoma High School’s impressive stadium. The game had a very stop-and-go quality as both teams played conservatively, kicking the ball out, rather than creating momentum towards the goal. As the first half came near the end, neither team had recorded any shots on goal.
Then, at the 37th minute, East Jefferson took another throw in and managed to break through Vashon’s line of defenders. The East Jefferson forward faced Vashon’s goalie one on one and easily scored.
Down 1-0, Vashon knew they had to score in order to advance to the next game in the playoffs. Just five minutes into the second half, freshman forward Besa Hruska took the team’s first shot on frame, just barely missing the top corner of the goal.
Thirteen minutes later, Vashon was awarded a free kick at the 35-yard line. Sophomore co-captain and midfielder Linnea Heuschert stepped up to take her signature kick and delivered, tying the game 1-1.
Now with just fifteen minutes left in the game, the Pirates began playing with the intensity we have been used to seeing this season. Senior midfielder Franki Brown and sophomore forward Mallory Keenan both managed to send in dangerous shots that seemed to rally the team.
With just eight minutes left, Wilke won a corner kick and Heuschert ran over to take it. The ball landed right in front of the crowded goal and somehow Keenan managed to settle it and pass it to junior Vera Moses. Moses simply had to tap the ball in and suddenly Vashon was up 2-1.
Vashon’s defensive line held up to any attempts East Jefferson made to tie the game and the team celebrated as the final whistle blew.
The stakes were high coming into Saturday’s game. Klahowya High School secured one of the two positions designated to District 3 in the state tournament by defeating Bellevue Christian Thursday night. The Pirates and the Vikings would now battle it out for the second spot. Vashon’s strategy coming into the game was to score first and to avoid giving Bellevue an opportunity to score from any set pieces.
Unfortunately, just five minutes into the game, a Vashon defender cleared the ball to the goal line instead of the side and Bellevue excitedly lined up for a corner kick. Although the ball was successfully cleared, it was again to the goal line and Bellevue lined up for a corner kick from the other direction. This time, the kicker found her mark and the ball bent directly into the net.
With an early lead, Bellevue predictably fell back and played a heavy defense, making it difficult for Vashon to build any momentum towards the goal. Also, with the absence of a few key players due to injuries, the new line-up had trouble connecting and moving forward on the field.
Just shy of ten minutes after their first goal, Bellevue managed to get into the box again and another Vashon defender attempted to clear it, sending it across the box in front of the goal, instead of away from it. This was unexpected for Vashon’s goalie sophomore Zoe Nowicki and Bellevue easily capitalized on it, scoring an easy goal to double their lead.
The majority of the game was played in the midfield as both teams continued to struggle to connect passes and push the ball towards the goal. Finally, with just seven minutes left in the game, Keenan found herself near the top of the box with the ball. Quickly seizing the opportunity, she managed to turn, shoot, and score.
Although there were a few attempts in the last few minutes of the game, Vashon could not tie up the score and Bellevue advanced to state as the 2021 season came to a close for the Pirates.
Coach Scott Nicolino’s final thoughts for this team were expressed the next day, “I was incredibly pleased with how this team handled adversity and rallied around each other to battle until the very end. Overall, with a record of 14-5, it was an exceptional season. One to be proud of for sure.”