The Montesano Bulldogs and Elma Eagles, two of the top 1A girls soccer programs in the state, renewed their league rivalry on Tuesday, and for the full house of fans in attendance, the match did not disappoint.
Montesano got a clutch goal from Bethanie Henderson late in regulation and two saves from Riley Timmons in a shootout to pull off a 2-1 victory in Elma, 4-2 on penalty kicks.
The Bulldogs (6-2 overall, 3-0 1A Evergreen) entered the game reeling a bit after an upset loss to Centralia and was without the services of multiple starters, most notably all-state senior forward and reigning league MVP Mikayla Stanfield, who is out for several weeks due to an ankle injury.
Making matters worse for the Bulldogs, Elma (8-2, 2-1) struck first.
One of the Eagles’ talented junior forwards, Valerie Echeverria, dribbled down the right sideline and squeezed around her defender near the Monte back line.
Echeverria sent a short pass toward fellow junior forward Beta Valentine, who chipped the ball toward the near post with the outside of her foot. The ball deflected off of Timmons, who was shifting laterally along the goal line, and into the net for a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.
The two teams attacked, counter-attacked and battled for possession through the midfield throughout the first half, but due to the excellent goal tending from all-state keepers Timmons and Elma’s Emmie Spencer, the game remained 1-0 at halftime.
After the break, Elma had an excellent chance to double its lead when junior midfielder Miley Seaberg fed a pass to Echeverria, who took a shot on-goal at point-blank range, but Timmons came off her line to stuff the attempt and keep the game at 1-0.
Monte nearly scored on a high, steep-angle shot moving across the goal from Bulldogs junior midfielder Hazel Jones, but Spencer leaped and deflected the ball away to preserve the lead in the 58th minute.
Elma’s best scoring opportunity of the half came in the 61st minute when Valentine charged down the left hash and ripped a high, hard shot headed for the top, far corner of the net. The shot beat Timmons, but ricocheted off the post and out of harm’s way.
It was a missed opportunity the Eagles would come to regret.
With time winding down and the referee’s final whistle just minutes away, Montesano earned a free kick from approximately 25-yards away near the right sideline.
With Monte desperately needing a goal to tie, Henderson sent a high-arcing shot toward the net. The shot came down just above the outstretched arms of a leaping Spencer and into the net to tie the game at 1-1.
“I was just thinking about making sure I got my foot on it right,” Henderson said of her approach, adding she asked for some divine intervention before taking the shot. “I was honestly just praying in my head, ‘Lord, please just help me get this in.’ … I was just praying that I’d hit it in the right area and I’m thanking him for helping me.”
Henderson added she wasn’t sure if it was going in when it left her foot.
“I knew I hit it in the right spot, I just wasn’t sure if I overshot it or anything like that,” she said. “I’m just so thankful it went in. I thought it went over, but when I saw everyone cheering I was just so excited and happy about that.”
“That’s why we put her there, because we know that she can put those away,” Montesano head coach Fidel Sanchez said of Henderson’s goal. “And against a good goal keeper like (Spencer) – she’s awesome – it just dipped right at the last second and that’s what (Henderson) does. She puts that ball where it needs to go.”
Henderson’s shot didn’t come without some controversy, as the referees overturned the goal as the ball was thought to have gone over the net, but the head referee conferred with his crew and the goal was eventually awarded.
The game went to overtime where the best chance either team had to score belonged to Montesano when junior forward Addison Potts sent a through ball forward to a hustling Jaelyn Butterfield, who outran Elma defenders to the ball.
Butterfield took a point-blank shot on the breakaway, but Spencer charged off her line once again to block the shot and send the game into a penalty-kick shootout, the third in the past three meetings between the two teams.
In the shootout, Henderson and sophomore midfielder Mary Campbell scored for Monte sandwiched around a conversion by Elma’s Seaberg.
Valentine stepped up and took a shot, but a Timmons save kept Monte’s advantage at 2-1.
The next two shots were saved, one by Spencer and a second save by Timmons.
Monte sophomore midfielder Alexia Stanfield converted her attempt as did Elma senior midfielder Aaleigha Weld.
With Monte up 3-2 in the shootout, junior midfielder Sam Roundtree stepped to the spot and sent one past Spencer to end the shootout 4-2, and give Monte an important league victory.
“We had three starters out of our lineup and coming off a loss to Centralia, everything was set up for us to fail tonight,” Sanchez said. “We told the girls to stay calm and chip away and you could see their confidence roll and roll. You cannot underestimate Montesano teams. This team fights and it matters not of the girls who are out. Our leader is out, our best player is out and people stepped up.”
Timmons made 12 saves in the game while Spencer stopped nine shots on-goal.
“Beside the fact that we are both good teams, I think it’s a bit of a mental thing – the fans, a big crowd, the rivalry – I think it’s part of a mental game that they just need to shut out and focus,” Elma head coach Evan Valentine said of his team’s inability to secure the win. “Always with Monte, it’s as much of a mental game as anything. … It’s almost like we expect (Monte) to find a way to stay in it.”
The win gives Monte sole possession of the top spot in the 1A Evergreen League, with the two teams scheduled to face off again Oct. 19 in Montesano.
“We all kept our composure and I was proud of the whole team,” Henderson said. “It’s a big game and people were expecting us to lose. So just going in and really giving it to them and fighting back was definitely a big part of it.”
Monte hosts Hoquiam at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Elma takes on Eatonville at 7 p.m. Thursday in Elma.
Montesano 0 1 – 1
Elma 1 0 – 1
(Montesano wins 4-2 on penalty kicks)
First half – 1, Elma, Valentine (Echeverria), 19th minute.
Second half – 2, Montesano, Henderson, 78th minute.
Overtime – None.
Penalty kicks – Montesano 4 (Henderson G, Campbell G, Potts NG, A. Stanfield G, Roundtree G); Elma 2 (Seaberg G, Valentine NG, Echeverria NG, Weld G).