As with many district-tournament matchups featuring smaller schools, teams often have to travel a considerable distance to play a match, and the Overlake girls soccer team’s opponent in the first round of the 1A Tri-District tournament was no exception.
The Redskins of Port Townsend High School traveled over two hours and nearly 70 miles to get to Sammamish High School in Bellevue on Wednesday for their playoff matchup against Overlake.
Overlake’s speed was on display against the sluggish Redskins as the persistent Owls finally punched in a goal in the second half to pull out the 1-0 victory.
“We have a tremendous amount of confidence,” said Overlake coach Sally Goodspeed. “You want to feel confident the whole game that you have it in the bag, but that was not the case tonight. We had to sweat it out, and that’s only going to help us with that feeling going forward.”
Against a completely unfamiliar team, Goodspeed said her game plan was to stick to the basics and focus on her team’s strengths, which are speed and aggressiveness.
“We were trying to possess the ball, trying to work it around them,” Goodspeed said. “We were trying to use our advantage which was speed, and use the width of the whole field.”
The Owls dominated the Redskins on time of possession throughout the game, and particularly in the first half as Overlake took six shots on goal to Port Townsend’s zero. Yet, the Owls had nothing to show for their efforts as the score was tied 0-0 at halftime.
“We just weren’t successful in that final decision in putting the ball in a dangerous way on goal,” said Goodspeed of her team’s inability to score early on.
The second half began as another tale of near-misses, as junior defender Courtney Phillips blasted a kick that hit the top crossbar and clanged away two minutes into the second half.
Ten minutes later, Redskin goalkeeper Caroline Dowdle made a diving save on a header by Overlake junior Maya Marder off a nicely placed corner kick from senior co-captain Christine Eaton.
In the 65th minute, Overlake had another opportunity from the corner, and the second time proved to be the charm for the persistent Owls. Phillips headed in the game-winning goal off of Eaton’s perfectly executed kick.
As it turned out, practice on that particular play paid off for the Owls.
“We practice the corner kick all the time, every practice,” said senior defender and co-captain Alex Boit.
“If we don’t get the ball, we have to run, so we were pretty adamant about making sure we get there first,” added Eaton.
Goalkeeper Ceci Votta earned her seventh shutout of the season as the Owls have blanked six of the last nine teams they’ve faced.
“We’re really coming around,” Goodspeed said. “They’re solid in the back, they’re organized, they work hard together and really don’t give much up.”
Overlake played a very physical game out on the field, and with the Owls winning many of the one-on-one plays. But their aggressiveness came with a price as the Owls were yellow-carded twice during the match.
“It was really surprising,” admitted senior co-captain Christina Nordin. “We play hard and physical, but we play clean. Getting a yellow card is kind of a big blow for us, we don’t like that at all.”
The Owls outshot the Redskins 12-1 and dominated possession of the ball, but Goodspeed gave Port Townsend credit for playing their heart out.
“It seemed like a matter of time, but Port Townsend, they played well, they battled us hard. It could have gone either way,” she said.
The Owls’ victory and high seed coming into the tournament gave them a berth into a pivotal winner-to-state game on Friday at 5 p.m., after the Reporter’s deadline, at King’s School in Seattle against Charles Wright Academy.
The Owls (11-6-1) are seeking a second straight trip to the state tournament.
“We did it last year, we want to do it again,” said Eaton. “We’ve been working hard up to this point and we earned it.”
“We’re right where we want to be,” Goodspeed said. “It was a tough battle, but we came out on top.”