EAST WENATCHEE — The Eastmont Wildcat girls’ soccer team defended their Big 9 District title Wednesday night with a dramatic 2-1 shootout victory over rival Wenatchee. Last year, Eastmont beat West Valley in the district title game.
“It’s what we worked for. At the varsity level, we work to win games and compete to find a way to State. It’s a beautiful thing they got to win Districts for the second year in a row. Now we’re onto the first round of State,” said Eastmont Head Coach Vidal Hurtado. “This is the best group of girls that I could think of going with to State.”
The game might have been much different had the Wildcats cashed on some of their chances in the first half. However, the Wenatchee defense was up to the challenge. At 27 minutes, junior Jayden Brown had a free-kick from 27 yards out that just missed.
Right after that, Eastmont had back-to-back corner kicks but just could not cash in. For the most part, the Wildcats dominated the first half, but the score remained 0-0 at the half.
“We kept them in the game. We allowed them to stay in the game by not finishing the opportunities we had early. One of the proudest moments was not giving up. We had an endless amount of opportunities that didn’t go in but we kept working and never let down,” Hurtado said.
“Eastmont really took to us in the first half. We were lucky to escape with no goals. We felt like if we could regroup in the second half, we would have a chance,’ said Wenatchee Head Coach John Springer.
It did not take long for the Wildcats to pick up a goal into the second half. At 42 minutes, Brown took a slow cross and kicked a low shot into the corner of the net at close range.
Eastmont took a 1-0 lead. At 45 minutes, Eastmont had a hard shot bound off the crossbar. At 51 minutes, Wenatchee sophomore Halle Stegeman lofted a high looping shot from 30-feet out which found the top of the net.
That tied the game at 1-1.
“We still didn’t come out with the intensity in the second half until they scored,” Springer said. “Then, we settled into things. We got one soon after that. All season, we’ve had times like that. It takes giving one up, then we get fired up and respond. We oftentimes score our equalizer pretty quickly.”
At 62 minutes, Eastmont junior Megan Chandler put up a solid cross, but the header went just over the goal. At 71 minutes, Wenatchee had a great opportunity with free-kick just outside the box, but the shot was wide.
From her forward spot, Brown was a constant threat to use her speed to make a run at the goal. At 76 minutes, Brown came wide open rushing toward the goal but Panther keeper Nyah Hughes came way out to knock the ball away.
In extra time, Brown was again on a breakaway, but Hughes made a sliding save. In overtime, Brown twice had chances for the golden goal to end the game. In the first OT, Brown fired a shot which bounded off Hughes, but another defender kicked it out.
In the second OT, Brown had a breakaway, slipped past the keeper, but missed the open net with a shot that sailed over the goal. With the game still tied at 1-1, it was time for the shootout.
The shootout went 16 players deep before ending. Three times, Wenatchee came up with a chance to win, but missed or had the ball blocked. The 15th kicker, Eastmont’s Elly Little made her shot, but Wenatchee Olivia Bowman could not.
The Wildcats are the District Champs for the second year in a row.
“We were relentless even when it wasn’t working in the game. Our ability to miss PK’s and have the next person step up at the toughest of moments. Shout out to (keeper) Kora Fry. She is an amazing keeper for sure,” Hurtado said. “Super excited. I’m really thankful for the group of girls that we have this year. They have been committed all along and it shows. We were never defeated even when things were not coming out the way we wanted.”
Last year, Eastmont lost 3-2 to Central Valley in the first round of State.
“It’s why we worked for, to find ourselves playing the best teams in the state. We’re excited. We’re ready. This game proved we can play soccer. It was a complete game for us minus the final touch. The ability to continue getting after it and after it,” Hurtado said. “If we would have made those opportunities, it would have been different in our favor.”
Springer said it was a great match.
“I felt it was pretty evenly played. We had moments, where we had them on their heels. Nyah saved us a few times. Our defense did a fantastic job being down a couple of defenders,” Springer said. “The other girls stepped up and did great. Fantastic game.”
Eastmont had 10 shots on goal, Wenatchee nine. The Wildcats had eight fouls, the Panthers five. Eastmont attempted five corners, Wenatchee three.
“Hats off to Wenatchee. They also never gave up. They also worked hard through the 80 minutes plus overtime. I think they’ll bounce back and make their way into State. Good luck to them,” Hurtado said.
Wenatchee can still make it to State. They will host either Moses Lake or Davis on Saturday in the Apple Bowl for the second Big 9 berth to State. Moses Lake plays Davis on Thursday. Wenatchee split against both teams this season.
“We’ll be at home so that will be good. The hard part is getting over the sting. The hard part is refocusing. Just regroup and refocus and get ready to go for Saturday,” Springer said.