Auburn Riverside’s Kayla Rydberg, left, and Enumclaw’s Nicole Huff vie for the ball during a wet, gusty first half of their NPSL Olympic Division soccer match Thursday night at Auburn Riverside High School. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

Auburn Riverside’s Kayla Rydberg, left, and Enumclaw’s Nicole Huff vie for the ball during a wet, gusty first half of their NPSL Olympic Division soccer match Thursday night at Auburn Riverside High School. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

Inspired Ravens down Hornets, seize league lead

Auburn Riverside pursuing second straight title

Calm came after the storm, leaving a silent pitch and setting the stage for what the Auburn Riverside girls soccer team does best.

Score big in the second half.

True to their character, the Ravens came alive after halftime, scoring a pair of goals five minutes apart to defeat Enumclaw 3-1 in a pivotal North Puget Sound League Olympic Division match Thursday night at Auburn Riverside High School.

The win gives the Ravens (9-1-1 in the division, 11-1-1 overall) the inside track to repeating as league champions with three games left on the regular-season slate. The win also atoned for the Ravens’ only league loss to the Hornets (8-1-2, 8-3-2) – a 1-0 late-September setback on the plateau.

“The kids really took it hard,” coach Paul Lewis said of the loss. “We played well, we just couldn’t score. So we kind of marked the calendar ahead, and said, ‘OK, if we can take care of business … maybe we can be within striking distance.’”

Lewis’ bunch scrambled back into contention. Needing a win to pull ahead of the Hornets, the Ravens answered.

Kiana Gutierrez, s sophomore standout, scored twice and senior defender Addie Saarenas scored the other goal to lead Auburn Riverside. Freshman forward Samiah Shell assisted on all three goals, boosting her school-record-shattering, single-season record total to 17.

“We worked a lot harder. The first game … (we) just (had) low energy, didn’t set the tone,” said Gutierrez, who has 12 goals on the season. “And this game we all knew what we were going for. We all wanted first. It was a big game for all of us. To get the win means a lot.”

The teams toiled through a miserable, gust-driven rain that left the score 1-1 after 40 minutes.

Enumclaw’s Monica Brown scored on a free kick, about 20 yards out, in the 32nd minute. Gutierrez drilled the equalizer, off a Shell pass, in the 37th minute.

After the band of strong wind and rain passed by at the break, Auburn Riverside took control of the match.

Gutierrez found the back of the next, compliments of a Shell cross, in the 43rd minute. Shell’s corner kick found Saarenas, who headed the ball into the open net near the far post four minutes later.

Bella Reckling was stout in goal, making six saves in 80 minutes of work.

The Ravens, who have outscored opponents 37-1 in the second half this season, have enjoyed a “tremendous” offensive season. Saarenas’ goal was the Ravens’ 60th this fall, breaking the school mark of 59 set by Lewis’ 12-3-3 team last year.

“It couldn’t have happened to a nicer kid because she’s a defender, kind of an unsung hero,” Lewis said of Saarenas. “She’s the nicest, most humble kid in the world but she’s tough as nails. … It was pretty awesome that she scored. It was a good moment.”

To a great season so far.

Gutierrez and Shell have triggered the attack.

One of five children in her family, Gutierrez has been playing soccer since she was 3. She is quick and nimble with the ball. Shell is swift as well, with 12 goals and the desire to distribute the ball to others.

“The great thing is she’s scoring goals but she’s really unselfish,” Lewis said of Shell. “She’s tremendously skilled, but she’s looking for her teammates and creating opportunities. And Kiana,

Added Hornets coach Shawn Tobias: “Those are some talented young ladies that (Lewis) has, so they are impressive. They have good technical skills. They have good tactical skills. They’re really tough.”

And difficult to contain, especially in the second half. The defense has smothered counterattacks. And Stephanie Igwala, a tall and strong forward, is a matchup problem.

“They played hard. They just had more energy tonight,” Tobias said. “They wanted to prove a point that we weren’t better. They had a lot to prove and honestly, the league title was on the line.”

But there’s more work to do before the regular season ends and the district playoffs begin next month.

“The kids were laser focused as far as wanting to reach the goal. They are really enticed of wanting to be back-to-back champions … if we can do it,” Lewis said. “We still have those games to win.”

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