SPOKANE — The 2019 season of the Wenatchee Panther girls’ soccer team came to an end on Tuesday in the first round of the State 4A Girls’ Soccer Tournament. Wenatchee, the number two seed from District 6, played at the number one seed from District 8, Gonzaga Prep.
The Bullpups went undefeated the tough Greater Spokane League at 9-0. They were also the district champion, finishing the regular season at 18-2. The Panthers were second in the Big 9 at 9-3. They finished second in districts. Overall, they were 12-7.
Wenatchee Head Coach John Springer said Gonzaga Prep was one of the toughest teams they’ve played this season along with Central Valley from the GSL. The Panthers lost 3-1.
Only three teams this season have scored three goals against the stout Wenatchee defense, Central Valley, Gonzaga Prep and Cashmere.
“It was tough. I was extremely happy with how our girls played. The effort was great. We knew it would take a lot to score on them. We were hoping to hold them off as long as possible,” Springer said. “We did a really nice job of that.”
The first half was scoreless until the final two minutes. The Bullpups had a free-kick from 30-yards out toward the sideline. Springer said they lost their focus and gave up a silly foul. Gonzaga Prep played the ball right in front of the goal and scored on a header.
“That was a little bit deflating. The girls would have been ecstatic to be tied at halftime,” Springer said. “Then go into the last 40 minutes where anything could happen. They did seem a little frustrated they gave the goal up so close to halftime.”
Just six minutes into the second half, the Bullpups had a corner kick. This one bounced around finding a foot for the score, which made it a 2-0 game at 46 minutes.
At that point, Wenatchee could no longer play their defense, counter-attack game. They had to start playing offense.
“Lose and you go home. At that point, it doesn’t matter, we had to get a goal and try to creep back into the game,” he said. “The girls transitioned well with that. We were able to get in behind their defense a couple of times but were unable to score.”
At 57 minutes, Gonzaga Prep had another corner kick, which bounced around and ended with a goal to make the score 3-0. Springer said it was extremely frustrating to give up scores on those corner kicks.
“I was so pleased with the way our defense played. They never really had a great shot on goal in the regular run of play. We gave up too many corner kicks. There must have been seven or eight corner kicks,” Springer said. “Most teams are going to get goals off set plays in front of goal if you give them that many opportunities. That’s what happened here.”
Wenatchee had no corner kicks in the game. Springer would have loved to have gotten two or three. He liked their chances to score off a corner kick.
“We just gave them too many chances because of the corner kicks. They attacked us a lot and our defense held extremely strong. I was pleased with our midfield. They won a lot of balls,” he said.
Wenatchee would finally get on the board at the 78th minute as senior Jaden Dooley dropped in a ball to sophomore Halle Stegeman, who scored from 18-yards out. That made it a 3-1 game. A minute or so later, the Panthers had a great low shot which they stopped.
“The girls never quit and continued to fight. All in all, I was extremely proud of the effort they gave,” he said.
The future looks bright for the Wenatchee Panthers. They lose only two seniors, Dooley and starter Maddy Smith.
“We had four freshmen get a lot of time in the second half of the year including the playoff run. They were big contributors throughout,” Springer said. “I’m extremely excited about what the girls can do next year. They all have good experience under their belts. We should be at least as competitive if not more so.”
Playing in the district title game and the first round of state provided some good experience that should benefit them next season.
“They all got some good experience. We’ll be better because of it. The girls weren’t too upset at the end. They knew they were up against a good team. We played as well as we could have and as hard as we could have. We just came out on the short end against a better team,” he said.