PUYALLUP, Wash. – It was the one thing East Valley girls soccer coach Gabe Escobar didn’t want his team to face – a corner kick.
The play has haunted the Knights all season and on Friday in the State 2A semifinals it reared itself again.
White River’s Amber Inderbitzin emerged from a sea of players directly in front of the net and headed in a Hornets corner kick midway through the second half.
It proved to be the contest’s only goal as White River advanced to the state championship match with a 1-0 victory over East Valley at Sparks Stadium.
“Corner kicks have bitten us all year long,” Escobar said. “If this team has an Achilles’ heel, it’s corner kicks, and tonight it cost us.”
Despite the loss, East Valley (15-7-0) will still conclude its most successful season today when it plays for third place at noon against Archbishop Murphy.
“This team’s already won. They’ve already made history at the school by making it this far,” Escobar said. “This is a tough loss, but this is an easy group to rally. This group always plays with passion and excitement. We’ll be ready to play (today).”
Trailing 1-0 late in the contest, the Eagles turned up the pressure in an attempt to find the equalizer.
With 3 1/2 minutes remaining, sophomore Amanda Bliesner emerged from a pack on a breakaway, driving within 10 yards of the goal before her shot sailed high.
“That was a tough one. Amanda’s been money for us all season. It just went off her foot wrong,” Escobar said. “She was the offensive player of the year in our league and is a huge reason why we are here. It was just an unlucky break for us.”
The Eagles also had a corner kick with less than 2 minutes remaining turned away.
“We had a breakaway in the first and a breakaway in the second where we didn’t score,” Escobar said. “But I was very pleased with how we played tonight. It was one of those games that could have gone either way.”
A scoreless first half was equal parts fast-paced and physical.
Credit solid goalkeeper play for the opening 40-minute shutout as both squads generated several quality scoring opportunities, all of which were turned away.
East Valley’s Caitlin MacFarlane was stellar in the net in the first half, stopping seven shots – most being booted with more than enough velocity on them.
Neither goalie was excluded from the physical style of play. MacFarlane collided with White River’s Kinsey Gandel while making a save 25 minutes into the match. Hornets goalie Kylie Englebert crashed into a streaking Samantha Hilfiker while making a save 15 yards outside the box.