By Jenni Wilke
For The Beachcomber
The Vashon High School Girls’ soccer team was back at it again, hosting the Annie Wright Gators at home on Monday, Sept. 20.
Although not typically known for their strong offensive play, Annie Wright managed to fire off two shots on goal within the first ten minutes. Luckily, sophomore goalkeeper Zoe Nowicki was there to make the save both times. Vashon finally answered with their own shot in the 13th minute, when junior forward Hanifa Khidr assisted Mallory Keenan in the box. Annie Wright’s goalie was unable to stop it, putting the Pirates up 1-0.
The Gators seemed undaunted and just a few minutes later, one of their forwards sent in a fast low ball that just missed the left corner of the goal. Senior midfielder and co-captain Phoebe Wilke immediately brought the ball back down the field, firing a shot right at the goalie from the top left corner of the box. Annie Wright’s keeper could not keep her hands on the ball and Wilke followed up on the rebound, this time hitting the back of the net.
A few minutes later, sophomore forward Olivia Boyes found herself wide open about 25 yards from the goal and decided to take her chances on sending in a long ball. As it sailed over the goalie, Vashon breathed a little more easily settling into a comfortable 3-0 lead.
Annie Wright struggled to maintain possession as Hanifa Khidr brought the ball down the right side of the field. Khidr sent in a perfect cross in between two defenders, finding Phoebe Wilke, who made the run and got a foot on the ball to score her second goal of the night.
Just two minutes later, sophomore midfielder Lila Cohen decided to try her luck with another long ball, this time from 30 yards out. Again, Annie Wright’s goalie had no chance as the ball sailed over her, making the score 5-0.
Regaining momentum, Annie Wright was able to penetrate Vashon’s defense and found themselves near the box ready to make a play. Senior defender Kaitlyn Bonaventura was there to interrupt the potential goal. Unfortunately, there was some confusion and perhaps miscommunication as Nowicki picked up the ball after Bonaventura passed it. The referee awarded Annie Wright a penalty kick, which was expertly taken, putting them on the board 5-1 at the half.
Undeterred by this event, Vashon continued to dominate in the second half. Within five minutes, Hanifa Khidr had the ball all the way down to the goal line and turned to make another strategic cross. In an attempt to clear the ball, one of Annie Wright’s defenders accidentally kicked it towards the goal, increasing Vashon’s lead to 6-1.
Although they were down five points, Annie Wright continued to battle for the ball and stay positive as they tried to get past Vashon’s strong defensive line again and again.
In the 53rd minute, Olivia Boyes found herself deep in the left corner with the ball. Maneuvering around a defender she crossed the ball to Mallory Keenan who was positioned perfectly in front of the goal. Keenan managed to settle the ball before smartly kicking it past the goalie.
With such a comfortable lead, Coach Scott Nicolino was able to rotate in most of the bench, allowing everyone to get playing time in the second half. In the final seconds of the game, junior midfielder Vera Moses saw an opening from outside of the box and took a shot. As it bounced off the crossbar, senior forward Cait Jeffcoat was there to tap it in making the final score 8-1.
With just one day to recover, Vashon hosted the newly formed East Jefferson Rivals on Wednesday, Sept. 22. New to the Nisqually League, East Jefferson is made up of players from both Port Townsend and Chimacum High Schools.
The Rivals set the pace of the game right from the start, playing aggressively and applying a lot of pressure to Vashon’s offensive line. The Pirates seemed to struggle to find their own rhythm in the first half, often reacting to plays rather than setting them up. Sophomore goalie Zoe Nowicki saw more action in the first fifteen minutes of this game than she has all season, making several dramatic saves to keep the score 0-0.
Finally, in the 26th minute, Vashon had control of the ball with sophomore forward Mallory Keenan dribbling right into the box. Keeping her head Keenan took a well-timed and well-placed shot to secure the lead for the Pirates.
Both teams continued to battle for possession throughout the first half. However, neither team managed to string more than three passes together as defenders stayed tight with the offensive lines. East Jefferson deployed more physical tactics, which at times resembled basketball, setting a pick to disrupt a player, rather than playing the ball. Despite several calls of outrage from Vashon players, the bench and fans, the center referee motioned to play on.
With a narrow 1-0 lead, Vashon finally found its rhythm in the second half. When they were able to control the pace of the game, players were more successful at connecting passes and setting up plays. Unfortunately, the Pirates were unable to finish on several opportunities, taking their chances on long shots from outside the box, rather than shooting from a closer range.
Vashon’s best opportunity to score in the second half came when sophomore defender Alana Bass brought the ball down the field and sent in a low ball that went just to the right of the goal.
In the face of increasingly physical play from East Jefferson, Vashon managed to hold their lead and escape without serious injuries. With a 1-0 win Vashon is now at the top of the Nisqually League with a record of 4-0. The Pirates will face the only other undefeated team in the league, Klahowya High School, at home on Saturday, Oct. 2. The kick-off is currently scheduled for 5:45 p.m. but may be subject to change.