The Vashon girls varsity soccer team stormed into and through the first round of the state playoffs Nov. 8, dominating Spokane’s Lakeside Eagles at an island home game.
After a beautiful cross from Olivia Boyes, Kate Spranger blasted a strong right-footed kick from her wing position at the 30-minute mark that evaded the keeper for the first — and the last — goal of the game.
A near capacity crowd filled the VHS stadium. Their cheering electrified the Pirates with incredible energy throughout the game. Pirate players pummeled the Eagles goalie with over a dozen shots, maintaining constant pressure.
With seconds to play in the game, an Eagle player broke through the typically stout Vashon defense for one of the few shots that keeper Ivy Staczek faced all game. The shot, nearly at point blank range, would have tied the game and sent it into overtime. Staczek played it perfectly and cradled the ball into her chest, and the ref blew the whistle to end the game: Pirates 1, Eagles 0.
“My goal heading into the season was for us to reach, at least, the quarterfinals of the state tournament,” said coach Scott Nicolino, who was named Nisqually District Coach of the Year this season.
The win over the Eagles meant the Pirates would face last year’s state champion and this year’s number one ranked team in 1A soccer, Klahowya, in the state quarterfinals. The team met Nicolino’s goal.
Vashon had already met Klahowya three times this year, with Vashon winning one of those bouts. That made it the only team in the Nisqually division or the state playoffs to beat them during the regular season.
The game was played on November 10 at the Klahowya stadium under cold, wet and incredibly windy conditions.
Klahowya scored 2 goals within the first 17 minutes of the game, putting the Pirates on their heels and into a tough position in brutal weather.
At the close of the first half, Linnea Heuschert took a free kick at the 25 yard line and sent a miraculous ball to the right side off the net that glanced off the Klahowya keeper’s fingers and into the back of the net.
The teams went into the half with the Pirates down 1-2. Despite furious action and a number of good opportunities the game would end with the score this way, and the Pirate season would be over.
“Losing to Klahowya in the quarterfinals was tough,” Nicolino said. “But a 2-1 loss to the number one ranked team is an amazing accomplishment and proves that this team was capable of a top 2 or 3 finish in the entire state of Washington.”
Linnea Hueschert and Meah Mcinerney were named to the All Nisqually first team. Ivy Staczek, Alana Bass, and Olivia Boyes were named to the second team.
Eleven of the 22 Pirate players will be graduating next spring, which means the 2024 team will have its work cut out if the athletes want to continue their two-year streak competing in the State tournament.
Nicolino, who coached along with John Thomas, Paul Beytebiere, and Bret Owensby, said of the team: “What an incredible bunch of players that we, as coaches, have had the opportunity to work with. So much talent, so much heart, and so much love for not only the game of soccer but each other, too. Practicing everyday can be a grind but it didn’t feel that way with this team. We truly had fun together and kept things light-hearted in between the serious stuff. A testament to their positive attitudes and the genuinely good people that they have grown into over the years.”
“Our 11 seniors made this team what it was, and that was one of the best girls soccer teams Vashon Island High school has seen in more than a decade,” Nicolino concluded. “They will all be missed.”
Mike Spranger is the father of a Vashon soccer team athlete.