EAST WENATCHEE — It seemed the game might end 1-0 by virtue of some Jayden Brown magic as the final minutes were ticking by. Oh, but soccer can be such a cruel game. Despite a Herculean defensive effort by the home Wildcats for 78 minutes, the Mead Panthers struck twice in the final minutes to win 2-1 and advance in the state tournament.
“It was a contested game. That was a quality team. I hope they do well in the next round of state. We grew as a team. We got better as the season went on. I’m proud of what we were able to do this season,” said Eastmont Head Coach Vidal Hurtado. “Unfortunately every team but one will end on a sad note. We’re walking from the field with our heads high. The girls had a heck of a season. I hope it will provide them a lot of memories.”
The visiting Mead Panthers, 15-4 on the season, came out and dominated the play in the first half. Despite shot after shot, the Eastmont defense was up to the challenge. At 17 minutes, the Panthers had a shot in the box which was saved by junior keeper Kora Fry.
At 31 minutes, Brown came down on the break with a just single defender. She got by the defender and had the open net, but shot over. In extra time in the first half, Mead drew Fry out and fired a shot, but an alert Wildcat defender kicked it out.
Despite Eastmont being out-shot by a considerable margin, the game was 0-0 at the half.
At 44 minutes, Brown had another breakaway with her and a lone defender. This time, she found the net for the game’s first score. Eastmont led 1-0 with still a lot of game left.
“It came out of nowhere. She was able to create that opportunity for herself and put it away. Unfortunately, we were under pressure for most of the game. Our defense held until the end,” Hurtado said.
The half continued with Mead constantly challenging Eastmont, but the defense was up for the challenge time and again. Three corner kicks down the stretch, but the Wildcats repelled the shot each time.
Slowly it appeared Eastmont was gaining some control of the midfield. The clock was winding down to 78 minutes when it stops for extra time. Just as the clock hit 78 minutes, Mead scored the equalizer, as sophomore midfielder Shannon Wood found the net from inside the box.
“They had a lot of opportunities from corner kicks and sending the ball in from the side,” he said. “They were finally able to get one with minutes left and that stressed us out a little.”
As the game rolled into extra time, it seemed perhaps overtime was coming. Then a great through ball to senior Megan Cardenas, who slipped by the defender and fired a shot past Fry.
Mead took their first lead 2-1 in extra time. In the final moments, Eastmont not able to come up with the equalizer. In the first round of state, Mead won 2-1 and moves onto play GSL rival Gonzaga Prep in the second round.
Eastmont was out-shot 21-3 in the game. Fry had seven saves. Mead had six corner kicks, Eastmont had just one.
“Once you start getting some pressure, you aren’t able to think clearly. They had a phenomenal ball for their second goal, which got them a win. They had great through ball to their quality player and put it away,” Hurtado said.
The Wildcats finish the season 13-2-2, champions of the Big 9.
“I walk out of her being very proud of our team, our coaches, our players. I wish all our seniors the best of luck in their future endeavors. It’s disappointing but that is soccer. Sometimes you get the win, sometimes you don’t,” Hurtado said.
Hurtado believes they are going to come back stronger next year.
“We have a lot of girls with a lot of varsity experience. I’m looking forward to that. I want to celebrate our seniors. They contributed to our program greatly. I appreciate every single one of them,” he said.
The Eastmont seniors are GK Dayanara Martinez, FW Savannah Rasberry, MD Kieahna Carson, MD Rebecca Covarrubias, MD Alex Heimbigner, DEF Tess Sparks and DEF Maria Mendoza.