Lady T-Birds defeat Peninsula 1-0 in double overtime for third NWAC title
By Hailey Still - Staff Reporter
The Highline women's soccer team defeated Peninsula 1-0 to claim the NWAC championship this past Sunday.
Highline started its journey to first place in the NWAC after they lost in the semifinals last year to Peninsula.
"For those of us that are returners, we knew how it felt to lose in the semifinals last year and never want to feel that way again. So, we did all that we needed to this year to not be in the same place," sophomore Kaitlyn Hamilton said. "During the entire summer, we would go to 6:30 a.m. workouts. When pre-season came, we would have practice three times a day. The first at 9 to 10 a.m., the second 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the third from 2:30 to 4 p.m."
In the end, it all came together, earning Highline its third NWAC title.
To get to the championship, Highline beat the undefeated Walla Walla Warriors on Nov. 15.
Both teams went scoreless in the first half. Both had opportunities on goal, but neither goalie was allowing anything into the back of the net. Highline goa- keeper Kate Nelson had a good save in the 40th minute to keep it 0-0 to end the first half.
In the 66th minute, the Warriors were given a free-kick about 35 yards away from the goal. Brielle Schneider kicked the ball, and it soared in the air and made it into the back of the net, putting Walla Walla up 1-0 with 24 minutes left.
"Getting behind in general is nerve-wracking, but in that game it felt like the world had ended in that first moment. I knew that we had to pull through if we wanted to get the result that we wanted," freshman Abby Carmel said.
The T-Birds did not let up. In the 90th minute, Highline earned a corner. Skyylerblu Johnson sent the ball into the box. The ball got knocked down in front of the goal and Alyssa Andrews put the ball in the back of the net to tie the game.
The game went into two 10-minute overtimes. After the
20 minutes were over, it went to penalty kicks.
The top five women from each team had the opportunity to shoot against the opposing team's goalie from 12 yards away. Highline made five of five shots and Walla Walla only made four of five shots, making the T-Birds victorious.
"We kept believing that we would tie that match and we did in the last 20 seconds. We weren't going to give up without a fight and we showed it last night," said Johnson a day after the game.
Two days later, the T-Birds played their arch-rival Peninsula for the title. The undefeated Pirates beat Tacoma in the semifinals, 2-0, which brought their overall record to 21-0-0.
Highline and Peninsula have a long history. In 2018, the Pirates beat the T-Birds in the semifinals, 1-0. The year prior in 2017, Highline took the title after defeating Peninsula in the finals, 1-0 in overtime. In 2016, Peninsula beat the T-Birds in the final in double overtime, 1-0.
On Nov. 17 at 11 a.m., the whistle blew to start the match. It was an eventful game; three yellow cards were given out, two to Highline and one to Peninsula. There was a total of 23 fouls and multiple injuries.
Sophomore Hamilton had to be pulled out of the game in the 16th minute after being cleated in the knee by Peninsulas' Sammy Howa. Also, Highline star forward Rayna Santiago got hurt in the 105th minute after being tangled up with a Peninsula player fighting for a ball.
During regulation, the teams battled hard, but at the end of 90 minutes it was 0-0. The game went into overtime. Peninsula almost scored on a breakaway when they played a ball over the top. West Region MVP Hannah Jenkins chased a Peninsula player down in the 18-yard box and slid to clear the ball out of bounds.
"Hannah freaking Jenkins is always on her A game for us --saving the game left and right, sliding here, sliding there," Carmel said. "Our backline is pretty incredible."
Kate Nelson made numerous saves -- three in the first over- time -- that kept Highline in the game.
"Kate saved us so many times. She played outstanding and really stepped up for us," Carmel said.
The second overtime started and Santiago was pulled due to injury. Highline's backup goalie, Sophia Leer, came in at forward for her. In stoppage time, Leer received a ball from Anderson and scored the winning goal.
"Coming into the game, I knew I had to be ready for anything and ready to be subbed in at any moment," Leer said.
"Once I saw Rayna was down and hurt her ankle, I started taking off warmups and warming up my legs. I was already itching to get back into the game, because after double overtime, if the game would have been still tied, we would've gone into penalty kicks and I was feeling confident. The team needed me just like I needed them, so I was going to give my everything to make a goal."
"She shot it and everyone was trying to see if it went in," Carmel said. "When it hit the back of the net, everyone was screaming and sprinting towards her."
At the end of the match, Highline was awarded the trophy and Jenkins was awarded MVP of the championship tournament for her stellar play on the backend.
"The craziest part is that we are a team of only 14 players and everyone doubted us," said Anderson. "We just never stopped fighting."
"I don't think I've ever felt so content and purely happy in my life," Leer said. "I had dreamed of that moment since before I even started playing at Highline."
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