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Two-time defending state champion Bear Creek girls soccer is kicking for more success | SLIDESHOW
It was a tension-filled match, much like the games some teams will be playing during the state tournament two months from now.
The two-time defending state 1B/2B champion Bear Creek School girls soccer team knows all about those types of contests. On Monday, the Grizzlies summoned that experience with a 2-1 victory over the visiting Bush School on a Sara Hastings goal late in the second half.
“She’s a game saver,” senior Caroline Bridgwater said while smiling at sophomore Hastings after the match. Last year, Hastings also scored the winning goal in a crucial victory over Crosspoint Academy.
“I’d been taking a lot of shots, but none of them had been going in — so I just didn’t give up,” said Hastings, an attacking center midfielder. “It’s definitely exciting.”
Added Bridgwater, a holding center midfielder, about the Grizzlies’ performance against Bush: “I think this game was one of those kind of games where it was all about heart and just putting your head down and finishing the game.”
Bear Creek got an early goal from senior Brittany DiGenova, but Bush pushed back and tied the match at 1-1 in the second half.
Bridgwater acknowledged that the Grizzlies made a few mistakes in the back and were a little shaky at times, but they banded together, stayed positive and pulled out the victory.
The Bush win raised Bear Creek’s record to 4-1-1 at the Reporter’s deadline for this issue. Last year, the Grizzlies racked up a 15-4 overall record and defeated Napavine, 4-0, in the state final. Goalkeeper Maya Shipway, a sophomore this season, and her defense had two shutouts in the team’s final two games last year, including a 4-0 victory over Crosspoint in the semifinals.
“Things are going really well,” said DiGenova, a defending center midfielder. “We have the same team pretty much that we had last year, and we definitely want to come back and win another state title. We’ve been working hard and I think our record shows that.”
DiGenova said the Grizzlies do feel some pressure as state title holders.
“I think for us, we thrive under pressure and that kind of motivates us to work harder,” she added.
Sophomore Jill Leszynski — who plays up front on both the left and right wings — Bridgwater, DiGenova and Hastings all agree that Bear Creek soccer plays a special part in their lives. It’s not only a sports experience, but the girls are bonding on and off the soccer pitch, as well.
“I think in practice, we really lift each other up, try to be encouraging and not put people down,” Leszynski said. “We build our morale and hope that we can pull out the wins because of our good attitude and helpfulness to the others on the team.”
Along with DiGenova and Hastings, Leszynski has also scored this season along with Whitney Isbell, Hailey Morgan, Hannah Bauermeister and Abby Linnenkohl.
Bridgwater, who had 23 assists last season and four in Bear Creek’s recent 8-0 win over Mount Vernon Christian, added: “I definitely feel this team comes out every single day and works as hard as they possibly can, and so I’m just really thankful to be able to play soccer with my best friends.”
As Bridgwater finishes her sentence, DiGenova turns to her and they share a high five. It acts as an exclamation point to Bridgwater’s uplifting comment and a motivator for more Grizzly success to come.