Sports

Klahowya gets revenge against rival Eatonville

Klahowya’s Rocki Winkler fights off Eatonville player as both try to get possession of the ball in the Eagles’ 3-2 win Saturday. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Klahowya’s Rocki Winkler fights off Eatonville player as both try to get possession of the ball in the Eagles’ 3-2 win Saturday.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

For three years, Klahowya’s girls soccer team has tried to get back to state, where historically Klahowya has been a 2A powerhouse, making four appearances in the school’s short history and winning the 1999 state title.

And for three years, the Eagles have fallen short, getting taken out at districts.

The odds were against Klahowya again on Saturday, when the Eagles hosted Eatonville in a winner-to-state, loser-out West Central District game at Silverdale Stadium.

The Cruisers, coming off six consecutive trips to state, won the state title in 2005 while taking fourth place last year.

Eatonville (11-4-0 overall) had topped Klahowya 3-1 in a non-league meeting between the former Nisqually League rivals on Sept. 13.

Throw in the absence of starting goalie Kazandra Holliday, who was attending a national softball camp, and the cards appeared to be stacked heavily against the Eagles (12-4-1).

But as the cliché goes, that’s why the game’s not played on paper.

Klahowya stormed back from a 2-1 deficit with less than 10 minutes to play to defeat Eatonville 3-2.

“That was nice,” Klahowya coach Troy Oelschlager said. “It’s been a long time since we beat Eatonville, let alone been back to state.”

Eatonville actually had a 2-0 after forward Jenna Samora scored her second goal a minute into the second half. Klahowya, while generating opportunities, had a tough time breaking through until Sierra Cook blasted a hard shot on the run in the 45th minute of play to close the gap to 2-1. Cook found herself open in front again in the 71st minute, this time placing a shot nicely into the right corner of the net.

Knotted up at 2-2, the game appeared to be headed into overtime.

But coming off a well-placed corner kick from Jenna Whetsel, senior Theresa Pryzbylek pounded the game-winning goal in.

“She always seems to come off the bench and have a big goal for us,” Oelschlager said.

Klahowya was visibly excited, jumping over one another while jubilantly cheering. After all, this group sent Klahowya back to state for the first time since 2001.

“It’s so exciting,” said senior Shelby Hunter, who played a very strong game. “Especially since it’s my senior year. I’m so excited. We’ve never been this far. This is the best feeling.”

With Hunter, Cook, Pryzbylek, Anna Stewart and Brittany Corely seniors, Oelschlager said he was very proud of his crew.

“That’s gonna just make their year soccer-wise,” he said. “It’s something they’ve strived for for four years. We finally did it their senior year.”

Hunter agreed.

“Last year we came to this game and we lost,” she said. “This year, a lot of us seniors wanted just to win. We put all our heart and effort into it.”

With Holliday gone, the team put Courtney Lewandowski in goal. For most sophomores, this situation would not be a comfortable one. But for Lewandowski, who spent last season in the net for the Eagles, it was just another position. She made several tough saves while benefitting from an even tougher Eagle defense.

“Asking her to step in and play keeper like that, especially in such a big game, that’s asking a lot,” Oelschlager said.

Cook said with Lewandowski’s previous experiences, the team felt more than comfortable having her step in. In fact, the only downside Oelschlager could think of was that it kept Klahowya from using her in the field, where she’s become a solid defender for the Eagles.

“Kaz has done really well for her first year playing keeper,” Cook said. “But with Theresa, there’s confidence there too.”

Hunter said the biggest advantage for the Eagles was simply being familiar with the Cruisers.

“We knew who to mark,” Hunter said. “We knew who their best players were. We know how they play. That really helped us out.”

Cook said it was encouraging to see the team battle back with their backs against the wall.

“We just knew we had to score,” Cook said. “We knew we had it in us.”

The game was a physical one, with Cook getting audibly frustrated with the officiating. Getting swarmed by the defenders marking her, Cook was slow to rise several times in the game. That all boiled over after Cook went down for a fourth time in 4 minutes, with officials slapping a yellow card on Cruiser co-captain Jessica Erickson. Klahowya’s Jessica Drake also went down hurt, but walked off fine, in the hard-fought contest.

“That was a tough battle,” Cook said. “We just had to hold our own.”

The win not only sends Klahowya to state, but also earns them a home game to begin. The Eagles will kick off the 2007 WIAA State Girls Soccer Championships today at 7 p.m. at Silverdale Stadium.

The Eagles will take on Cedarcrest, the runner-up after a 14-2-0 regular season in the 1A/2A Cascade League. Oelschlager said the girls are already excited for the game.

“Absolutely,” he said. “There’s nothing like a state playoff game.”

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