The thrill of victory
November 26, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Patriots capture first girls state soccer title
As time wound down and the Liberty High School girls soccer team secured a 2-1 victory over Kamiakin in the Nov. 23 3A state championship game, two things were certain.
First, the Patriots would capture their first state title in girls soccer. Second, the team, which had sworn off fast food this season, would feast on McDonald’s that night.
“If I was really on it, I would have had Happy Meals delivered,” Liberty coach Tami Nguyen joked.
A trip to Ronald’s was undoubtedly deserved for a group that made school history, riding a wave of momentum that began with the team’s Nov. 13 upset of top-ranked Columbia River.
The 2013 Patriots didn’t even win their own league championship, which went to Bellevue, but they won the only trophy that mattered.
“People always talk about peaking at the right time, and I don’t think you could’ve scripted it any better than this,” Nguyen said.
The sizable contingent of Liberty fans didn’t have a chance to get settled in at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup before the Patriots scored their first goal against Kamiakin.
Just seconds into the game, Liberty sophomore Sydney Abel put the Patriots on the board, netting the ball inside the right post, with an assist from junior Sami Harrell.
“She played me a good ball, and I just had to be there to finish it, and our momentum went up right as we got it,” Abel said.
Kamiakin tied it up in the game’s 16th minute, thanks to Alicia Nguyen’s penalty kick, sending the teams into halftime with a 1-1 score.
Abel and Harrell would connect again in the second half, only this time Harrell had the score, while Abel had the assist. The goal was all the Patriots would need to capture the state title.
When the referee blew the whistle, officially ending the game, the Patriots jumped and screamed with excitement, while echoes of the chant “Patriot power” emanated through the stands.
“We didn’t think we were going to win it this year, and we did it,” Harrell said.
The win against Columbia River was a momentous turning point in the Patriots’ season, Nguyen said.
It instilled confidence and a belief that Liberty really could make it to the top, after coming so close the past few years. In 2012, the Patriots placed fourth at state; a year earlier, they finished second.
“It’s unbelievable for the seniors, for our school,” Abel said. “We came back and won it.”
Liberty reached the title game after a close victory against Seattle Prep in the semifinals. That Nov. 22 game went to a shootout.
The continuity in coaching played a big factor this year, Harrell said, as these Patriots had the same coach for consecutive years for the first time in their careers.
“It’s nice understanding how she coaches, and she knows us, and we were able to just put it all together,” Harrell said of Nguyen, Liberty’s second-year coach.
Ten seniors will graduate from this year’s Liberty squad, a special group that was defined by their close relationships, Nguyen said.
“Their leadership of getting the underclassmen on board and teaching the tradition of our program has been important,” she said. “They’ve really taken those guys under their wing, which really instilled a good team atmosphere for us.”