By Mike Maltais
The Liberty Bell High School varsity girls’ soccer team completed an inspiring season by placing third in the state championship soccer tournament last weekend, the best finish ever for a Liberty Bell soccer team, and earlier winning the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association 2B academic championship for the fifth consecutive year.
The Lady Lions concluded their three-month odyssey at Sunset Stadium in Sumner last Friday and Saturday (Nov. 22-23) in a four-school playoff against the best 2B teams in the state, and captured third place behind Bear Creek and Crosspoint Academy after defeating Adna, 5-4, in a double-overtime penalty kick shootout.
Liberty Bell was matched opposite two-time defending state champions Bear Creek of Redmond in the semifinal game on Friday and suffered a disappointing 7-0 loss to the Grizzlies. It was the second time this season that Liberty Bell and Bear Creek met, the first occasion being a non-league warm-up at LHBS on Sept. 14 that the Grizzlies won, 4-0.
The well-balanced and experienced Bear Creek team took a commanding 4-0 lead into the first half of play and cushioned that with three more goals in the final 40 minutes to drop Liberty Bell into the consolation round against Adna.
In the semifinal contest played earlier Friday, Adna battled Crosspoint Academy to a 6-6 standoff by the end of regulation play but then lost to the Warriors, 7-6, by an overtime penalty kick. That set up Saturday’s game with the Lady Lions to determine third and fourth place.
The game between the Lady Lions and Pirates turned into an evenly matched defensive battle that held both teams scoreless through regulation play and two five-minute sudden death overtimes.
As the Lady Lions watched the duel play out between Adna and Crosspoint in the semifinals, one Pirate player stood out.
“Their No. 11 was their main player,” said Danielle Mott. “She scored five of Adna’s goals and had an assist on the sixth one, so we really keyed our defense on her.”
When that didn’t break the deadlock, the contest went to five alternating penalty kicks to determine a winner.
Freshman Mia Kennedy stepped up to the line for the first shot and found the corner of the net for Liberty Bell’s first point. Kendra Stadjuhar of Adna tied the game, 1-1, with her scoring shot.
Mott was up next for the Lady Lions. The freshman midfielder sent her kick past Adna’s goalie to put LBHS up, 2-1.
“We knew their goalkeeper was a little inexperienced,” Mott said.
Adna’s Rachel Diaz de Leon buried her shot to tie the shootout, 2-2. Liberty Bell’s third goal then came off the foot of freshman Lauren Fitzmaurice, who again gave the Lady Lions the lead, 3-2.
Kelsey Aselton of Adna sent her attempt too close to Liberty Bell goalkeeper Lauren Ochoa, who caught the ball and preserved Liberty Bell’s 3-2 advantage.
“I came prepared,” Ochoa said of her goalie position. “I watched the kicks the day before and was pretty calm when it came time to play.”
With just two shots remaining between the Lady Lions and third place, eighth grader Haley Post added a point with her scoring kick.
Adna’s Holli Edminster then made her shot, but the 4-3 score still gave Liberty Bell a final opportunity to win by a goal.
Senior co-captain Kathleen Chavey-Reynaud crowned her season as a Lady Lion with the winning point and rewarded Liberty Bell with its first-ever third- place state soccer trophy.
Asked if she was nervous as she stepped up to attempt the critical fifth point at the penalty line, Chavey-Reynaud said “I always play best under pressure.”
Long road to state
By most calculations the young Liberty Bell squad was a long shot to even return to the state championships, the school’s third such appearance since the girls’ varsity soccer program was founded in 2000.
At the start of the season the varsity roster of four seniors, a junior, three sophomores and four freshmen was a lean one for Liberty Bell to field a team with adequate substitutes. The league therefore granted a special waiver that allowed eighth graders to be elevated to the varsity ranks.
A talented pool of underclassmen responded and brought with them several players who would fill pivotal roles in the Lady Lions’ line-up as the season progressed.
“They brought a lot of energy and excitement to the team,” said Chavey-Reynaud.
The starting 10 for Liberty Bell in both games at state included five eighth graders.
As if a roster made up of 11 freshman or eighth graders wasn’t enough of a challenge, the team was then beset with injuries throughout the season that alternately sidelined one or more key players.
Six players suffered concussions including Ochoa, Tulie Budiselich and Ella Hall. A concussion requires a mandatory six-week recovery period before the player can rejoin the team.
Lauren Fitzmaurice was out for part of the season with two broken bones in her left arm. MacKenzie Woodworth suffered a broken finger. Cassidy Butler missed the playoffs while recovering from a bone break in the upper shoulder.
As injuries healed and the Lady Lions began to coalesce in strategy and teamwork, Liberty Bell knocked off all their league opponents except Bridgeport, and even the Nannies came up short when both teams met for the final state qualifier.
Assistant coach Lucas Budrow used the same 4-4-2 formation – four defenders, four midfielders and two strikers – at state that the Lady Lions used to defeat Bridgeport a week earlier.
Tabitha Bergevin-Krumme was named the game’s sportsmanship award winner.