When the referee blew the final whistle, four senior Redmond High Mustangs — Maya Fleming, Lindsey Honhart, Vanessa Almada and Lily Chirichigno — embraced and stood still for a few moments before walking as a group toward their teammates.
There were tears alongside laughter and pride among the entire team as the Mustangs finished their stellar season with a 1-0 loss to Bellarmine Prep in the opening round of the 4A state tournament on Tuesday night on the Redmond High pitch. The Mustangs, who took second in KingCo and second in the Wes-King district tourney, ended with a 9-4-4 record.
Almada said it’s been an unforgettable four years of Redmond soccer for her and the other seniors. She’s sad they’ll now go their separate ways with club ball after striving for a state title.
“Here, we have that common goal. This is how I met so many of my best friends in high school is through this program. Just the thought of not getting to be on this field again with them is just so painful, but I’ll take the memories forever,” Almada said.
Bellarmine tallied early in the first half, later missed a penalty kick and then hit the right corner of the crossbar. Redmond’s defense — led by junior Reece Wharton, Fleming and sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Thomas — held tight against the Lions, and Almada, senior Taylor Pisan, junior Sofiya Mitchell and freshman Aspen Sullivan had some chances up front but couldn’t deliver an equalizer.
There wasn’t a penalty kick shootout to be found in this match, something the Mustangs had been involved in their last two matches — a 2-1 win over Jackson after 15 rounds of kicks and a 1-0 loss to Issaquah in the district title game.
Thomas chuckled and shook her head about the epic PK shootout against Jackson, during which she registered the final diving save to seal the victory.
“It’s just been a blast, the seniors and everyone have just made it so great as a first-time varsity player and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s just been such a great season and I love them all so much,” said Thomas, adding that the seniors have ingrained in her mind that if you put in heaps of work and never give up, you can achieve your dreams.
Thomas experienced some nervous moments before matches, but once she hit the field, it all washed away and she focused on each piece of the game, whether it was an 80-minute contest or a PK kick-a-thon.
Chirichigno said the Mustangs displayed “grit” time and time again the season. She didn’t hesitate in noting that her favorite games were the Jackson victory and other comeback triumphs over Skyline and Overlake and breaking a scoreless tie for most of the match to defeat Eastlake.
“This has been a remarkable year, not even on the field, our results, but our team. I think we truly have such a love for each other and such team chemistry on and off the field,” she said. “I’m so proud of this team this year, it’s been such an honor being able to play with these girls.”
Moving back to 4A from 3A for two seasons, Chirichigno said the team didn’t know what to expect. Redmond last made the state tournament in 2012 while competing in class 4A.
“After we kept winning and winning, we all were looking around, and we’re like, ‘This is real. We’re actually doing this well,’” she said.
Almada will remember everything about this season: the players, the coaches (Stacy Masters, Brad Masters and Trevor Tangen) and the drive to districts and the state tournament. It’s incomparable to anything she’s experienced in the soccer realm.
Pisan agreed and chipped in with some thoughts as players hugged each other and chatted nearby.
“The family of the team was crazy strong and the memories and the feelings after games… when we won some of our games, the feeling — you’ll never forget,” she said. “We’ll always have love for each other, that’s the best thing about this sport. We all play for each other, no matter what — always.”
Overlake girls soccer wins opener at state
Overlake’s girls defeated Montesano, 4-1, on Tuesday to advance in the 1A state soccer tournament. Jenna Lacy scored two goals, and Kayla Ngai and Sofia Beachman tallied for the Owls as well. Overlake will next play Klahowya in the quarterfinals at 5 p.m. Saturday at Silverdale Stadium.