Kentwood stunned in state soccer opener

The opportunities were there for the Kentwood High girls soccer team Wednesday night. The goals were not.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Monday, November 17, 2008 7:21pm
  • Sports

The opportunities were there for the Kentwood High girls soccer team Wednesday night.

The goals were not.

The top-ranked Conquerors outshot Shorewood by a 27-7 margin in a first-round Class 4A state playoff game at French Field. But it hardly mattered to the unranked Thunderbirds, who walked off the turf celebrating a stunning 2-1 upset of the Conquerors.

“That’s the one thing I don’t like about this sport,” Kentwood coach Aaron Radford said. “You can definitely dominate with chances and ability, put pressure on the other team. But it’s that last touch that, if it doesn’t go your way, it doesn’t go your way. That was us tonight.

“Unfortunately,” Radford added, “we’re making a little bit of a habit of that at the state tournament.”

Kentwood (16-1-2) was making its fourth straight trip to state. It was the third time during that span the Conquerors have been eliminated in the first round, the exception being a 6-0 rout of Lake Stevens last season.

It was a tough pill to swallow, particularly for a group of girls who had their way the entire season. Kentwood came into the match having outscored its opponents, 55-4, and with a South Puget Sound League title to its credit.

Wednesday night, however, all that mattered was making good on opportunity. And the Thunderbirds (15-3-2) certainly did that.

“We had so many chances — even in the last minute, we had chances,” sophomore goalkeeper Courtney Johnson said. “We kept fighting.”

Shorewood, which won three loser-out games to qualify for state as its district’s No. 3 seed, took the lead in the 12th minute. Anastaja Norins took a pass from Zana Bartlett and managed to squeeze off a shot through a pair of Kentwood defenders that bounded into the bottom left corner of the net just out of reach of Kentwood goalkeeper Megan Walburn.

It was just the second game all season in which Kentwood had trailed.

Johnson and Walburn shared goalkeeping duties all season and combined for 15 shutouts. Together, along with a host of stingy defenders in front of them, the Conquerors established a new school record for least goals allowed in a season with five.

Norins made sure with her early goal that the Thunderbirds wouldn’t be the latest victim of Kentwood’s staunch defense.

Despite a flurry of attempts to open the second half, the Conquerors simply couldn’t hit the back of the goal. They did, however, hit the crossbar on several occasions. And when it wasn’t the crossbar, it was either wide left, wide right or directly to Shorewood goalkeeper Madison Hollenbeck.

“I am a little frustrated with some of the chances where we couldn’t quite find the net,” Radford lamented. “But that’s the game of soccer.”

Indeed.

And while the Conks couldn’t make good on opportunity after opportunity, Shorewood cashed in on what few chances it had.

Norins pushed the Thunderbirds’ lead to 2-0 in the 53rd minute on an assist from Lisa Santroch, who delivered a corner kick into a host of Conquerors. But it was Norins who came away with a point-blank shot for the goal, which tipped off a leaping Johnson’s fingertips.

“It bounced off everybody ... it was to my left, came up quick to my right and I got the very tips of my fingers on it,” Johnson said. “But that was it. It was just good enough to get over.”

Kentwood’s Laura Moore finally cashed in 13 minutes later with an unassisted goal, cutting the deficit to 2-1.

The Conquerors managed to scrape together nine more shots during the final 14 minutes, but simply couldn’t put in the equalizer.

“We played a great regular season, played well coming into the playoffs,” Radford said. “Unfortunately at this level, you have to be able to come through, and Shorewood definitely was eager tonight. They finished two great shots. “That’s about all it took for them.”


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