Soccer can be kind one moment, terribly cruel the next.
Just ask the Auburn Riverside girls
In a record-breaking season to remember, the Ravens rode a 16-match winning streak into the program’s first visit to the state 4A championship last Saturday night.
The Ravens overcame a ragged first half of play, scrambled to score the equalizing goal early in the second half before Puyallup pulled out a stunning, last-minute win on its home pitch at Sparks Stadium.
Sydney Evans’ short-range shot, a diagonal delivery off a hustle play, struck the far post and bounced into the net as the final seconds evaporated in regulation, lifting the Vikings past the Ravens 2-1 for the program’s first state title.
Evans assisted on the game’s first goal – Kaelee Huetten’s 15-yard boot in the 36th minute – for the fourth-ranked Vikings (18-2-2).
The third-ranked Ravens finished a remarkable 20-2-1 season with an abrupt, painful loss.
“I’m super proud of the girls,” said Ravens coach Paul Lewis after talking to his distraught players lost in tears. “They can hold their heads high. … It was a gutsy, gutsy performance by the kids digging deep.”
Still, it wasn’t how they wanted their season to end.
“It hurts a lot,” said senior forward Stephanie Igwala.
Auburn Riverside played with bumps and bruises and, for the first time, without playmaking freshman forward Samiah Shell, who was participating in the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program Girls Thanksgiving Interregional Event in Boca Raton, Fla. Shell, the team’s engine, set school records this season for assists (27) and points (61).
The Ravens, nonetheless, rallied with a shuffled lineup.
“Our No. 1 player on offense, wasn’t here … and still to put out that performance?” Lewis said. “That’s a team coming together and raising each other up. I’m super proud of that.
“They played with a lot of heart,” he added. “I don’t think we played our best soccer in the first half, and I think they answered the call after halftime. We came out with a challenge. … Big games are going to come to moments, and man, to have a ball go far post, off the post and go in. I mean, those are the smallest of margins, right? We were hoping the margin would be on our side, but it wasn’t this time.”
As they had done all season, the Ravens emerged in the second half.
Trailing 1-0, Auburn Riverside got even when sophomore defender McKenzie Emmons scored from the crowded crease off a corner kick ball in the 59th minute.
“We came out stronger in the second half than we did in the first,” Igwala said. “That goal definitely gave us the energy we needed.”
But the Ravens had trouble mounting a consistent attack while the Vikings applied steady pressure.
Auburn Riverside also had trouble getting the ball to its leading goal producer, sophomore forward Kiana Gutierrez.
“Credit Puyallup,” Lewis said. “We were trying to get her the ball, but it was hard to get her free.”
Under attack, AR goalkeeper Bella Reckling played big, making several spectacular saves down the stretch.
Despite the stinging loss, the Ravens can look back at an unprecedented season. They finished with 99 goals, smashing last year’s record of 59.
“This group has set the new standard for every group that follows them. They’ve broken the ice,” Lewis said. “Everyone’s going to be chasing that level of play.
“I think they’ll look back at the legacy they left as a group. That was pretty special,” Lewis said. “They’ll come around and be like, ‘you know what, that was a pretty amazing season.’ ”
Gutierrez and the young Ravens look to return to the final four next fall – wiser, more prepared for whatever comes their way.
“We’ll look to keep making records next year and keep breaking those,” Gutierrez said, “and hopefully come back here next year.”
In the semifinal last Friday night, Emma Lane and Grace Anderson scored goals to power Auburn Riverside past No.2 Ingelmoor of Kenmore 2-0 at Sparks Stadium.
Lane scored in the first half and Anderson added the second in the 78th minute. Ella Snow fed Lane for the first goal at the 29th minute and Kiana Gutierrez delivered the assist on the second goal.
Reckling had the shutout.