Sports

Gators finish third

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

The Decatur Gators could have easily packed it in.

Nobody would have blinked an eye. Being the fourth best girl’s soccer team in the state of Washington is heads and shoulders above where most people picked the Gators before, during and after the regular season.

But Decatur didn’t pack it in following a 2-0 semifinal loss to the Bellarmine Prep Lions Friday night. The Gators fought back and downed the Redmond Mustangs Saturday at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood, 1-0, in a shootout to take home the Class 4A third-place trophy. It is the highest finish for the Decatur girls since they lost in the championship game in 1997.

“We feel like we can run with any team out here,” said junior defender Leana Pomeroy, who will be one of numerous returners for the Gators next season.

Decatur proved that during the latter part of the season. The Gators (15-4-3) finished the year with 10 wins in their final 11 games, including two shootout victories in the postseason. And their third-place trophy came without scoring a regulation goal during their two Final Four games.

“We have been winning with defense all year,” said coach Brandon Frederick. “We just haven’t produced much offense.”

That was true again in Lakewood.

Decatur and Redmond played to a scoreless 0-0 tie through 80 minutes of regulation Saturday afternoon, as well as two golden-goal overtime periods, necessitating the shootout.

A shootout that proved to be a showcase for Decatur goalkeeper Kristen Johnson. The junior, who has the nickname Tiny scrolled across her bright orange jersey, stoned the first two Redmond penalty kicks in the shootout, tipping away Kate Brindley’s shot at the right post and a diving save at the left post on Melissa Heitlauf’s attempt.

During that time, Decatur’s Brittany Gilmer, Nicole Collins and Clare Brown started the shootout with goals. Teresa Bowns of Redmond made it 3-1, but Johnson’s two early saves forced the Mustangs to score and save starting in the third round, which they couldn’t do.

Bellarmine 2, Decatur 0

The Gators just couldn’t get anything going against the undefeated Lions Friday night in the state semifinal game.

“They have a lot of talent,” Frederick said. “We knew that they were pretty good going in so it didn’t shock us.”

Decatur played with the powerful Lions during the first 40 minutes of action. In the first half of action, the two teams each got off three shots on goal. But the second half was a different story. The Lions used their team speed and a defensive mistake by the Gators to get on the board.

Mary Katherine Ward broke the scoreless tie with a shot on a pass from Federal Way resident Janelle Jacka in the 42nd minute and Corrine Baldassin tallied Bellarmine’s second goal 20 minutes later to give the Lions the victory.

“There were no real surprises out here,” Frederick said. “We came out and knew we could play with them. We knew we weren’t going to get blown out. But they are a very fast team. We just don’t have the speed and we couldn’t play our control game.”

During the second half of play, Bellarmine controlled the tempo of the game and held the ball in its territory for a bulk of the 40 minutes. The Gators were outshot in the second half 7-1.

Ward’s goal — the first of the game — came after a Bellarmine player stole a clearing pass from the Decatur backline and dribbled past a defender to stick a left footer in the left side of the goal.

“We let our guard down,” Frederick said. “We made a defensive mistake and didn’t clear the ball.”

Following the Ward goal, the Gators were forced out of their normal controlled passing game into a more offensive-oriented attack — a style of play that doesn’t suit the defensive-minded Gators.

The Gators entered the Class 4A Final Four as, by far, the lowest scoring of the remaining teams. Decatur tallied just 35 goals during the season while giving up 17. For comparison, Richland, who won the Class 4A state title for the second year in a row, came into the Final Four with over 80 goals.

“We tried different things throughout the season, like giving up an extra defender and putting four up front,” Frederick said. “Sometimes it worked. But you have to sacrifice and sometimes it doesn’t pay off.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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