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East Valley returns to State 2A girls soccer semifinals

East Valley’s girls soccer team made history last fall by advancing to the semifinals of the State 2A tournament for the first time.

And now that they’re back in the Final Four, the Knights are ready to make more history, according to coach Gabe Escobar.

“Last year was quite an experience for our girls,” Escobar said Wednesday afternoon, before putting his team through a practice session in preparation for Friday’s 8 p.m. semifinal against Cedarcrest at Shoreline Stadium in Seattle. “Even though we lost twice and finished fourth, we thought we put on a great show and played well over there.

“This year, our goal was to get back. And now that we’ve accomplished that, we’re looking to do better and go further.”

It hasn’t been an easy road back for the Knights (15-6), who overcame injuries to several key players to finish second in the Great Northern League, then avenged their two regular-season losses to league champion Pullman with wins over the Greyhounds in the district championship Nov. 1 and again last Saturday in the State 2A tournament.

One of the key setbacks was the offseason knee injury suffered by senior forward Amanda Bliesner, who was the GNL’s offensive player of the year last fall. Bliesner missed the first half of the regular season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ACL, but has returned and is again a main contributor.

“She’s not just playing well, she’s finding ways to create again,” Escobar said of Bliesner. “It’s been big getting her back, I can tell you that.”

During Bliesner’s absence, Escobar found other players who were willing to take on bigger roles. Junior Brittany Dugger moved from midfielder to forward to replace Bliesner and leads the Knights with 14 goals.

“It’s been a tricky year for us, with all the injuries,” Escobar said. “But the girls have managed to meet all my expectations as far as what I thought we could accomplish this season. The chemistry on the team has been outstanding, and everyone has worked hard to keep fighting and get back to this point.

“This is the time of the year to be playing your best soccer, and I think we’re doing that.”

Friday’s matchup against Cedarcrest will be last of four games played at Shoreline Stadium, with Newport (19-2), which is riding an eight-game winning streak, taking on Cashmere in the second of two State 1A semifinals at 4 p.m.

Interlake and Archbishop Murphy will play at 6 p.m. in the other 2A semifinal. The winner will move on to face the EV-Cedarcrest winner for the State 2A title at 4 p.m. Saturday, following the 2A consolation game that starts at noon.

Friday’s Newport-Cashmere winner will advance to Saturday’s 2 p.m. 1A title game, where it will face the winner of Friday’s 2 p.m. semifinal between University Prep and Seattle Academy. The 1A consolation starts at 10 a.m. Saturday.

In other weekend action involving area schools, St. George’s (14-2-2) will face Waitsburg-Prescott at 6 p.m. Friday in the quarterfinals of the boys State 2B/1B tournament at Sunset Stadium in Sumner, Wash.