Coming off of back-to-back shutouts of both Puyallup and South Kitsap in state first round and quarterfinal action, the Bellarmine Lions knew what lay ahead in the semifinals against Narrows League rival Gig Harbor. Sweeping the Tides in the regular season by scores of 2-1 and 4-0 meant little to the Lions with a berth in the finals at stake – but that was then, and this is now.
It took penalty kicks, but the Lions emerged with the win after overcoming an early 1-0 deficit to dispatch Gig Harbor for the third time this season.
After missing chance after chance in both the first and second halves, the Lions got the equalizer in the 74th minute when freshman Kaylee Kebba found the back of the net from a scramble in front of goal, sending the Bellarmine supporters into a frenzy.
Regulation play would end in a tie, sending the match into two five-minute periods to try and determine a winner. The Lions missed a golden opportunity in the 84th minute when Dani Nurmi mis-hit a great cross from Stephanie Hamilton from point-blank range, and it would come down to the decider of all deciders: penalty kicks.
After both teams made their first two tries, the Tides missed high and right while Hamilton would put Bellarmine up 3-2 after her conversion. Lions keeper Kiley Adams came up big, saving Gig Harbor’s fourth try, leaving the dramatics up to co-captain Kelsey Witker.
No dramatics, no pressure as Witker drilled it into the twine, and the Lady Lions mobbed her as they would earn a berth in the finals with a dramatic 2-1 win.
“Even down a goal, we felt confident with all the chances we missed, and Kaylee came up huge at the right time, bring on Skyline,” said a jubilant coach Joe Waters of the comeback efforts.
“I’m speechless, that save really got me pumped up,” said Lion keeper Kylie Adams. “I can’t believe we are going to the final.”
By Steve Mullen
A barrage of late-scoring chances were unable to produce the dramatic events of the night before, as Bellarmine fell 1-0 to Skyline in the state championship on Nov. 19 to settle for second place.
“We didn’t play as well as we could in the first half. It was a slow start,” Waters said. “The second half was much more like our team, like the way we play.”
After a Skyline player was taken down just outside the Bellarmine box, the Spartans’ Lianna Simms scored the game’s only goal when she drove a free kick into the top left corner of the net.
“It’s a goal worthy of winning a state championship,” Waters said. “When you get beat by something like that, you have no complaints.”
The Lions first real chance to equalize came moments before halftime, as Jenna Holtz sent a threatening cross to the middle, but Kebba’s header bounced just right of the goal.
Bellarmine came out fast in the second half, as Haley Lee sent a through ball to Emily Nelson, whose shot flew just left of the goal. Kelly Beck had a chance from 20 yards out in the 68th minute but her shot sailed over the goal, and Witker also sailed a shot just over on a breakaway two minutes later.
“In the second half we brought a lot more energy to the game,” Waters said. “I think if we played like that for 80 minutes we might have seen a different outcome.”
Skyline keeper Tina Vargas dove to stop a ball in the 71st minute just before Nurmi could get a shot off, and then blocked Beck’s point-blank shot minutes later to preserve the lead.
“Their goalkeeper had a fantastic night, we knew she was a good goalkeeper,” Waters said.
The Lions had one last shot in the final minute, but Vargas deflected Lee’s shot and the rebound was cleared out.
“We lost to a very good team, but I’m proud of our girls,” Waters said. “I couldn’t ask any more from them. They were absolutely fantastic.”
By Jeremy Helling