‘It feels so good’ as Skyline soccer team clinches state title

November 22, 2011

By Matt Massey

Spartans win third girls 4A state soccer championship in four years behind goal of sub Lianna Simms

Tina Vargas, Skyline High School senior goalkeeper (left), can't contain her joy as she celebrates with teammate Nicole Candioglos after the Spartans won their third state title in four years. By Christopher Huber

One went down, another stepped up.

That has been the nature of the top-ranked Skyline High School girls soccer team. Not one of the Spartans care about the glory, just the result.

Now, the Spartans will raise another championship banner for the third time in four years.

Junior defender Lianna Simms, subbing for injured Jackie Wilson on the back line, notched a free-kick gem in the 22nd minute as top-ranked Skyline turned back fifth-ranked Bellarmine Prep, 1-0, in the Class 4A state championship match Nov. 19 at Sparks Stadium.

It was the fourth shutout in four state playoff games for Skyline, which outscored foes 5-0. The Spartans weathered an offensive push late from the Lions and posted the school’s first unbeaten season in school history.

“It’s just so good to be a part of this team,” said Simms, who was moved up from the junior varsity team midway through the season. “It feels so good to be state champs. We worked so hard for this goal.”

Simms provided a precision free kick from 18 yards on a tough angle to the right for a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute. She used her left foot to sweep the ball directly into the upper far left corner of the net, the only place out of reach of Bellarmine Prep goalkeeper Kiley Adams.

“I saw the back side was wide open, and I like to hit it far,” Simms said. “So, I just aimed far bar and it went in.”

The win gave Skyline (18-0-2) its third state title. Bellarmine (17-3-1) made its eighth title-match appearance, having brought home top hardware in 2004, 2000, 1996, 1994 and 1987.

Skyline goalkeeper Tina Vargas posted her 11th shutout of the season. She made seven saves, including four in the final 10 minutes.

“Bellarmine Prep realized they needed a goal, so they started throwing a couple kitchen cabinets and a sink up there at the end,” said Skyline coach Don Braman, whose team was outshot 14-11, including 9-4 in the second half. “I really like the way the girls held under that storm.”

Bellarmine coach Joe Waters could only compliment Simms’ goal.

“It was a great strike,” he said. “When you’re beat by something like that you have no complaints.”

Skyline 2, Tahoma 0

Sophomore midfielder Brooke Bofto scored on a header in the 72nd minute off a corner kick from Sydne Tingey as Skyline stopped fourth-ranked Tahoma, 2-0, Nov. 18 in the semifinals.

Skyline, which lost senior central defender Wilson to an apparent broken lower leg in the second half, got a measure of revenge after losing 1-0 to Tahoma in last year’s semifinals.

“I’ll take that one,” Bofto said of the victory. “That was quite intense. One of my best friends, Jackie, went down and that’s all that was going through my mind. All I was thinking about was, ‘Do this for Jackie. Win this for Jackie.’

“I just went in there with my body,” she said of her header. “I don’t know if it was my head or my body that got it. Then, we just stuck everybody back (on defense).”

The physical contest featured 20 fouls, 15 on Tahoma, and four yellow cards.

Skyline midfielder Maddie Christ converted a penalty kick in the 80th minute for the final 2-0 margin after she was fouled in the penalty area.

The Bears were without their most important offensive player as junior midfielder Brie Hooks was attending an Olympic Development Program training event in Florida. Hooks led Tahoma in points with nine goals and 26 assists.

The game was characterized by hard fouls.

“There was a lot of contact,” Braman said. “I think our work rate helped us and the way the girls pulled together after Jackie went down. That’s a great example of the kind of quality they have as a team.”

The semifinal loss to Tahoma last year still stung for Skyline, Bofto said.

There was “a little bit of (bad blood) left over, I’d say,” said Bofto, whose team was ranked No. 1 in the nation last year when it was beaten by the Bears. “Last year, they scored early in the first half and we kind of controlled the game, but we couldn’t get a shot off. We had a lot more determination.

“I’ve never seen so many yellow cards in one game. I feel like it was minute after minute there was a foul or a card, but it’s on to tomorrow.”

Skyline was the more dangerous team in the scoreless first half with three close calls in a 20-minute span.

Wilson, who nearly converted a header in the 43rd minute off a free kick by Christ, left the game with her injury in the 50th minute. She and Tahoma’s Tori Tappero went after a 50-50 ball and kicked it simultaneously. Wilson was taken off the field after an eight-minute delay.

“Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with Jackie and we hope she heals quick,” Braman said of Wilson, who had played with a torn quadriceps muscle in her right leg. “It’s a lower leg, below the knee. They (trainers) are guessing fracture. It’s serious.”

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