In the third month and 19th match of its season, West Valley’s unbeaten girls soccer team finally felt some heat Wednesday afternoon. It arrived via the first round of the Class 2A state tournament, and deep into the second half the Rams were clinging to a one-goal lead.
“It was intense out there,” said senior Lindsay Burns, “and we needed that. We had pressure on us and that’s what makes you focus and work harder.”
When pushed, West Valley pushed back.
Leaning on its unyielding defense and Alyssa Wickenhagen’s unstoppable offense, the second-ranked Rams turned away West Valley of Spokane 2-0, locking down its sixth consecutive shutout, and advanced to a home quarterfinal against No. 3 Pullman on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“This is the type of game to expect now and the type of game to learn from,” said WV coach John Schubert. “They played us tough, especially at the start of the second half. But I like the way we responded — very businesslike.”
Having cruised through two district matches by margins of 5-0 and 6-0, the Rams nearly got a rude awakening to the state tournament when Jenna Sullens’ hard shot on goal in the first minute glanced off the right post. It was just the upset momentum the Eagles were looking for, and it was also the best look they got all match.
Wickenhagen continued her torrid postseason scoring — all season, actually — when she collected a long pass from Burns for a goal in the 22nd minute, and she struck again with a set-up from Samantha Filingeri-Olson midway through the second half. She had a third goal erased by an offside call despite knocking in a deflected save from the keeper.
It was Wickenhagen’s third straight multi-goal match of the postseason and raised her season total to 30 goals.
Since it was such a low-scoring match, requiring nonstop diligence by the defense, that’s the crew Schubert was especially pleased with in the first-round match. The defense now has 14 shutouts in the team’s 19-0 record and hasn’t allowed a goal in the first half in over a month.
West Valley’s backline, anchored by CWAC defensive player of the year Burns, includes junior Leslie Irwin and two freshmen — Sahara Hoffine and Alyssa Barden.
“It only took a few games for us to start clicking together. The young girls are very good,” noted Burns, who has no concerns playing in close proximity to a pair of ninth-graders. “Today, the most important thing was to stay composed and work together. This was a tough match and a good lesson — it gets us ready for more.”
Underlying the senior experience of players like Burns and Wickenhagen is a talented and deep freshman class that earned all-league status for four of its members — defenders Hoffine and Barden and midfielders Riley Steele and Taylor Karnes.
“Two freshmen on the backline — that’s a lot to ask of young kids but they are very good back there. We’ve got a lot of very good freshmen,” Schubert said.
Schubert split time with his goalkeepers, Stephanie Gibson getting two saves in the first half and Rozlyn Pratt stopping four shots in the second half. Freshman Rachel McGlothlen made four saves for the Eagles, who finished their season 13-6.
First half: 1, WV-Yak, Alyssa Wickenhagen (Lindsay Burns), 22:00.
Second half: 2, WV-Yak, Wickenhagen (Samantha Filingeri-Olson), 61:00.
Saves: Stephanie Gibson (WVY) 2, Rozlyn Pratt (WVY) 4, Rachel McGlothlen (WVS) 4.