Sports

Eagles booted from playoffs

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The best team doesn’t always win. Upsets occur all the time. But an upset is a little tougher to swallow when it ends one of the best regular seasons in recent memory.

That happened Saturday to the Federal Way High School girls soccer team. The Eagles, who rolled to the South Puget Sound League South Division regular season championship unbeaten, lost a heart-breaker to the South Kitsap Wolves at Sumner’s Sunset Chev Stadium, 4-3, in a penalty-kick shootout. South Kitsap (13-2-4) was the No. 5-seed from the Narrows League.

“We all know the better team lost,” said first-year coach Jason Baumgardt. “But that’s the way it goes.”

The Eagles (11-3-4) missed opportunity after opportunity during regulation and two five-minute overtime sessions at the West Central/Southwest District match. The game ended in a 0-0 tie after 90 minutes of play, necessitating the penalty-kick shootout.

In the shootout, which includes five shooters from each team taking a shot from 8-yards out, Wolves’ freshman Kaitlin Myles pounded a shot by Federal Way goalkeeper Chelsea White to give South Kitsap the win. The Myles’ shot came after Federal Way senior Megan Price, the Eagles’ fifth shooter, failed to get the ball past South Kitsap keeper Alicia Cleaver.

“Unfortunately, (shootouts) are part of the game,” Baumgardt said. “It’s just one of those things. It’s the playoffs and you have to determine a winner. That’s life. It’s unfortunate.”

The shootout started with Cleaver stopping a shot from Federal Way freshman Kaitlyn Keyes. But three-straight goals by Rachael Christenson, Mandy Ploskonka and freshman Briana D’Aguiar and a save by White evened the shootout at 3-3 entering the fifth and final round.

“You can only practice shootouts so much,” Baumgardt said. “We worked on them before the postseason started.”

But the fact that Saturday’s game even got to a shootout was disappointing to Baumgardt and the Eagles. Federal Way controlled every aspect of the match, offensively and especially defensively. The Eagles just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.

Offensively, the Eagles held the ball on their side of the field at least 80 percent of the game and had numerous scoring opportunities and corner kicks. The best chances came in the first half and during the two five-minute overtime sessions.

“We just weren’t able to finish,” Baumgardt said. “We had that problem all season long. Our girls weren’t nervous. We just didn’t put away our chances. We struggled to score goals all year against teams we should have beat.”

Defensively, Federal Way was solid all day long against South Kitsap. The Wolves didn’t have a solid shot on goal during the entire 90 minutes and White didn’t even touch the ball until 13 minutes were left in regulation.

The Eagles' defense, led by sweeper Tina Ruiz and Keyes, completely took the Wolves’ leading scorer, Nicole Bussman, out of the match. Bussman led the Narrows League in goals with 24, but had no shots Saturday.

“Mandy and Tina are teammates of (Bussman's) on their club team,” Baumgardt said. “So they knew how to defend her. Our defense did an outstanding job on her.”

The loss to South Kitsap came right after Tahoma, the No. 1-seed from the SPSL, lost in a shootout to Stadium, the Narrows' No. 6, on the Sunset Chev Stadium field.

“The same thing happened to Tahoma,” Baumgardt said. “They outshot Stadium, 24-4, but still lost in a shootout. So the top-two seeds from the SPSL are not going to state. That’s pretty discouraging.”

In total, the Narrows will occupy five of the seven berths into the 16-team state tournament. Puyallup and Emerald Ridge were the only two from the SPSL to qualify.

Saturday’s loss to South Kitsap puts a bad taste on what was otherwise a stellar season by the Eagles. Federal Way won their first SPSL South title since 1994 by going unbeaten in league play.

Baumgardt will lose several seniors from this year’s squad, including first-team all-leaguers Ploskonka, Price, sweeper Tina Ruiz, winger Brittany Bennett, the Eagles’ leading goal-scorer, White and defender Rachael Chistenson.

But Federal Way will return several key contributors next season. Players like midfielder Bree Rowe, winger Briana D’Aguiar and Keyes.

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

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