Clash for the crown

November 5, 2013

By Neil Pierson

Skyline blanks Issaquah to win 4A KincCo title

By Greg Farrar Amanda Johnston (left), Skyline junior forward, and senior midfielder Aleisha Gable, fight Issaquah freshman defender Kaylene Pang for the ball early in the first period.

By Greg Farrar
Amanda Johnston (left), Skyline junior forward, and senior midfielder Aleisha Gable, fight Issaquah freshman defender Kaylene Pang for the ball early in the first period.

Skyline High School has had a stellar defensive record all season, but in the span of seven days, it got even better against one of the state’s top teams.

A week after the Spartans closed their regular season with a 1-0 win over rival Issaquah, they dominated from start to finish Oct. 31, beating the Eagles 4-0 in the Class 4A KingCo Conference girls soccer championship game at Spartan Stadium.

Skyline, which has allowed three goals in its first 15 matches, earned District 2’s top seed to the state tournament, and will host a first-round match Nov. 11, 12 or 13.

Issaquah, meanwhile, was set to host Inglemoor Nov. 5 after press time. A win would send the Eagles to state, while a loss would force them to beat a WesCo Conference opponent Nov. 9 to move on.

Issaquah coach Tom Bunnell felt his team didn’t play well in either of the back-to-back outings with Skyline (13-1-1), and indicated things had to change if the Eagles harbored hopes of repeating last season’s trip to the state-title match.

“The girls have to step up and play better,” Bunnell said. “I can’t sit there and sugarcoat it and say ‘rah rah’ and all that, because then I’d be lying.

“We just have to be bigger, stronger, faster, and do what we do best, and that’s play a much better game instead of just giving in.”

Skyline coach Don Braman credited his players for having a high energy level early in the game, which led to a 2-0 halftime lead.

“I didn’t think the score was indicative of the way the game was,” Braman said. “It was competitive the whole way through, and when we get scoring chances and we finish them, then we feel like we’re a capable team.”

The Spartans probed the Eagles’ back four for the first 10 minutes, then struck in the 12th minute on a quick counterattack down the right sideline. Amanda Johnston lofted the ball to Lindsey Fujiwara, and the sophomore forward was able to deflect a shot past Issaquah goalkeeper Meg Hannan at the far post.

In the 35th minute, Hannan couldn’t corral a long blast from Jordan Branch, and Johnston pounced on the rebound for Skyline’s second goal.

That ended up being more than enough for the Spartans’ defense, which kept the Eagles (11-3-1) from establishing a consistent attack.

“We just had the mindset that we weren’t going to let them get any shots, and we knew what we had to do,” said Abbie Litka, Skyline’s senior left back. “Our whole defensive line was strong tonight, I think.”

Any thoughts of an Issaquah rally took a serious hit in the 53rd minute. Near the right touch line, Skyline’s Lauren Carson sent a pinpoint free kick to the far post, where Aleisha Gable headed the ball off the crossbar and in.

“We’ve been working on (set pieces), so it was nice to finally finish some,” Litka said.

“We’re trying to get all the parts of our game improved, and set pieces are just something that takes a long time to refine,” Braman added.

Johnston got her second goal of the night in the 79th minute to finish the scoring.

Issaquah wasn’t entirely without chances. Midway through the first half, the Eagles beat goalkeeper Emily Baril with a header, but Sullivan was well positioned to clear it off the goal line.

Shortly after Gable’s goal, Issaquah forward Devan Talley nearly poked in a point-blank shot, but the Spartans deflected the ball wide.

The Eagles struggled with every facet of the game, Bunnell indicated, and turning things around isn’t solely on the shoulders of the team’s star players.

“It’s on everybody,” he said. “They’re just not strong enough to play their archrival. I don’t know how you can’t be motivated to do that.”

Moments after hoisting the KingCo trophy, a beaming Litka noted the Spartans will get a long break before starting what they hope is a third consecutive state-championship run.

“With as hard as we’ve been playing, I think it will be nicer to not have a game for a while,” she said. “But we’re still going to practice and keep working hard, and we’re not going to stop from here.”

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