Sports

Klahowya soccer drops heartbreaker

Klahowya’s Anna Stewart clears out a header during Wednesday’s 1-0 (4-3 shootout) heartbreaking loss to Cedarcrest at Silverdale Stadium. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Klahowya’s Anna Stewart clears out a header during Wednesday’s 1-0 (4-3 shootout) heartbreaking loss to Cedarcrest at Silverdale Stadium.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

By AARON MANAGHAN

Sports editor

As the ball deflected off the outstretched fingertips of Cedarcrest keeper Kori Butterfield, a deafening silence dropped over Silverdale Stadium. Air that just moments before had been filled with hopeful cheers, encouraging yells and borderline celebration, fell quiet, just like that.

After Butterfield tipped Klahowya defender Acaia Cook’s shootout attempt wide left on a dive to the right side of the goal, Eagles fans and players wore expressions of shock and disbelief on their faces, previously plastered with smiles and hope. In Klahowya’s first state playoff game since 2001, the Eagles left it all on the field, with a stellar defensive effort being upended in a 1-0 (4-3 shootout) loss Wednesday to Cedarcrest in a game which the Eagles (13-5-1) had their chances.

“That’s a hard way to lose a game,” Klahowya coach Troy Oelschlager said. “That’s a hard way to end a season.”

In the final moments of regulation, it seemed the Eagles were perhaps destined to win, with the momentum at the half taking a shift Klahowya’s way after Cedarcrest (15-2-0), last year’s second-place finishers, controlled the ball for much of the first half.

In the second overtime, Klahowya’s Bekka Schell sprinted toward a through ball on the right side of the field played by teammate Sierra Cook, who was tightly marked throughout the intense match. Butterfield came hard to the ball as well, trying to scoop it up before Schell could get a shot off. Butterfield reached the ball first, but with no time to try to grab the ball, she simply tried to clear it out, booting it as hard as she could. The ball shot off Schell in the process, taking a sharp bounce to the left side that left her with an empty net as Butterfield hit the ground after the collision. Schell, who normally kicks with her right foot, had to strike the ball with her left foot. While no defenders were even close, Schell’s kick got under the ball just enough to send it sailing high over the top crossbar.

Another opportunity to pick up the win came during the ensuing shootout, as Klahowya took a 3-2 lead with one shot left for each squad. Cedarcrest’s Erin Kearney, one of the Red Wolves’ most dangerous weapons, drilled a shot by Eagle keeper Courtney Lewandowski, who replaced regular goalie Kazandra Holliday between the posts in the shootout, to the upper left corner of the net. With a chance to win, Klahowya’s Kinsey Simcic fired a hard shot right into Butterfield’s chest, allowing the keeper to make the save and send the game into a sudden-death shootout. On the very first attempt, Red Wolf Ashton Griffen scored one in the right side, leaving Acaia Cook with the final shot that Butterfield would deflect to secure the win, as well as a berth in the state quarterfinals.

Several Klahowya players fell into tears after the emotional loss, but Oelschlager said no Eagle, including those who missed opportunities, should hang their head following the loss.

“I just hope they realize it’s not on them,” he said. “That could have happened to any of the 11 out there.”

Klahowya’s defense played outstanding throughout the game, as Cedarcrest threatened early by controlling the ball. But the Eagles were on each set-up, with sweeper Anna Stewart getting a head or clearing foot on every ball within a foot of her.

“Anna was just huge back there,” Oelschlager said. “That’s her job: clearing everything. She’s not the fastest player but when you’re that smart, you don’t have to be.”

Lewandowski, a defender on the field, Rocki Winkler and Jenna Whetsel all played great defensive games as well.

“We’ve been as tough as nails all season long on defense,” Oelschlager said. “They stepped up again.”

Stewart said the team didn’t do anything different on the defensive side of the ball.

“We have a diamond defense,” the senior co-captain said. “I just make sure my right or left is marking up. We had just outstanding marking.”

Offensively, Sierra Cook had trouble getting free, but still managed some good shot attempts.

“They did a good job controlling Sierra all game,” Oelschlager said. “They were just swarming her.”

As for switching keepers, Oelschlager said while Holliday is the keeper of choice during the game, Lewandowski is quicker between the posts in a shootout.

“She’s quicker,” he said. “Kaz has done a great job in the games. But when it comes to a shootout, most shooters shoot low. Courtney goes quick to those corners.”

The loss ends the short one-year high school career of Arizona State University-bound Sierra Cook, who scored 20 regular-season goals to go with 8 assists this season. While the Klahoywa defense has always been known for its toughness, it was co-captain Cook’s offensive game that gave the Eagles an edge over most opponents. Fellow co-captains Stewart and Shelby Hunter and seniors Brittany Corley and Theresa Pryzbylek, each of whom also had several strong contributions in the playoff game, all graduate this year as well.

Oelschlager said he’ll have a lot of fond memories.

“Probably just the passion,” he said. “Each one was so dedicated and had so much fun they made the season enjoyable for everybody. And their work ethic. Sierra and Anna work extremely hard on the field. Their leadership will be missed, all of them.”

While the loss was hard to swallow, Stewart said the team had a lot to be proud of this year.

“I’m just proud for making it to state,” Stewart said. “I think we could have won that game. We played really well. It’s kind of disappointing to see us lose on the shootout. But I think our season was really great.”

As one of those Eagles who won’t be back, she said she too will miss a lot about the program.

“Just the people themselves,” Stewart said. “And the atmosphere and chemistry. You can play with great skilled teammates, but it makes a big difference with the chemistry is right. We all love each other. It’ll be sad to see it go.”

And while the loss still stings, Oelschlager said time will help put the game into perspective.

“When this loss rubs off, they’ll realize they played a great game,” he said. “It’ll sink in.”

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