Gators push toward the postseason

Things started out good for the Decatur girls soccer team Tuesday night on the turf field at Federal Way Memorial Stadium and got even better when the Gators picked up a pivotal 2-0 South Puget Sound League North Division win over the Kentlake Falcons.

Just nine seconds into Tuesday’s match, Decatur midfielder Sarah Isaac took a pass from Laura Bressler immediately following the opening kickoff and beat Kentlake goalkeeper Alyssa Loos to give the Gators a 1-0 lead before fans even had a chance to settle into their seats.

“I think the only time I’ve seen a goal scored faster was against us in our first match against Federal Way last year,” said Gator head coach Christy Gross. “Our girls recovered however and went on to win that match. It was outstanding, however, to be on the goal-scoring side this time.”

Isaac added another goal later in the first half to give the Gators the victory, furthering the gap between the two teams in the race for the fourth and final postseason berth from the SPSL North.

The win improved Decatur to 4-1-4 in the North and 4-3-4 overall, and solidifies their push toward the playoffs. The Gators trail Tahoma (8-0-1), Kentwood (6-1-2) and Jefferson (5-1-3) in the North Division championship chase. The Falcons now find themselves looking a long way up to the top four. Kentlake fell to 2-5-2 in the SPSL North and 2-7-2 overall, which is good for fifth in league play.

“The girls are beginning to come together,” Gross said. “We’re getting healthy, sort of. We are fighting the flu at the moment, but we’ve been able to pull away from injuries that were plaguing us at the start of the season.”

A big coming-together point for the Gators came on the night of Sept. 13. That’s when Kentlake downed Decatur, 3-2, and dropped them to 1-3-0 on the season. Since then, Decatur hasn’t lost a match and played to ties against the three teams that sit above them in the standings.

“We are beginning to play as a team offensively and defensively,” Gross said. “The girls are playing outstanding team defense, creating excellent opportunities for one another with their ball movement and collectively playing very well. They are getting better every match. I’m excited to see what these girls will do over the next two weeks.”

The Falcons have gone the other way since beating the Gators. Kentlake’s only victory in their seven matches came against winless Kent-Meridian. Tuesday’s loss was their fourth in a row since starting the SPSL North season 2-1-2. During the streak, Kentlake has been outscored 10-1.

The Gators dominated play Tuesday night on a wet and fast field in Federal Way. The Decatur defense and a ball-control offense never allowed Kentlake’s scorers like Leanna McCord, Katherine Miccile and Whitney Smyth to get any type of space. The Gators also seemed to win a substantial amount of the balls in the air and held possession in their end of the field for a bulk of the game.

The Gators’ were led by the physical play of Bressler on their front line. Bressler controlled a lot of the tempo and her work set up plenty of scoring opportunities for her, as well as her teammates.

Isaac was in the right place at the right time for her second goal of the night with 7:09 left in the first half. Decatur captain Cristina Valenzuela hit a prefect free kick from 28 yards out right onto the foot of Isaac, who was camped in front of the left post. The two goals upped Isaac’s season total to four, including three against Kentlake.

Senior Kaelyn Kanesta picked up the shutout in net for the Gators — her sixth of the season.

In other soccer action:

Beamer remained unbeaten and on top of the SPSL South with another shutout win Tuesday night. The Titans (11-0-0) downed the Bethel Braves, 5-0, on goals from Kaylee Huie, Brittany Orr, Nicole Peterson, Avery Salisbury and Sarah Petosa. Goalkeeper Maia Kurnik got the shutout in net.

Jefferson (5-1-3) remained in third place in the North with a 1-0 win over Federal Way (1-5-3) Tuesday. Kendall Swynenburg tallied the only goal of the game and goalkeeper Megan Hilby made it stand up.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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