At the conclusion of what was up to that point the biggest girls soccer match in Montesano High School history, Bulldogs head coach Fidel Sanchez said his team achieved one of its goals for the season — earning a state banner.
“Now they get one. Now how big of a banner they want is up to them,” Sanchez said.
With Montesano’s thrilling (albeit nerve-wracking for Bulldogs fans) 4-2 penalty-kick shootout victory over Tenino in the state quarterfinals, Montesano has earned its spot among the final four teams in the state and will embark on a journey not yet ventured for a Bulldogs team when they face Deer Park in the state semifinals at 2 p.m. Friday in Shoreline.
The Bulldogs (17-2), seeded at No. 7 when the tournament began, are the lowest seed left in the state playoff, a position relished by Sanchez.
“Now that we’re there, we are just going to give it a go,” he said after Saturday’s history-making victory. “We’ve never been there. Now we are the underdog. I love being the underdog. We’re going to go out there and give it the best we can.”
The Bulldogs are guaranteed at least two more games, Friday’s semifinal against No. 3 Deer Park, and then a game on Saturday — either the state title game or the third- and fourth-place game, depending on how Monte fares against the Stags.
Getting to the title game won’t be easy as Deer Park sports an 18-1 overall record and swept through 1A Northeast League and District 7 Tournament.
The Stags have scored 150 goals this season, an average of nearly eight per game, and have four players with at least 10 goals and 10 assists apiece.
Senior forward Livvy Moore leads the way for Deer Park. The University of Oregon commit has scored 44 goals and recorded 33 assists this season and has a prolific 110 goals and 76 assists in her prep career.
Moore and teammate Ella Carnahan (26 G, 15 A) scored six goals apiece in Deer Park’s 20-0 first-round over Royal, but Moore was shutout and Carnahan had two assists in a close 2-1 quarterfinal win over No. 6 King’s.
While the seeds suggest Monte is the underdog, a look at the state’s RPI rankings over the season says otherwise.
Simply put, Montesano is a much better team than a No. 7 seed. While Monte was on a 14-match win streak through the regular season, the WIAA RPI had Montesano ranked in the top three — ahead of Deer Park — for the bulk of the season.
The Bulldogs’ 2-1 loss in the District 4 championship to La Center was the likely culprit of Monte’s drop from what would have likely been a top three seed down to No. 7.
So while Monte may enjoy being in the underdog role, this is a matchup of two high-quality, equally-matched teams that have been ranked in the top five of the state for the majority of the season.
Nothing less should be expected in a state semifinal.
No. 1 Klahowya vs. No. 4 Seattle Academy
The state’s only remaining undefeated team, the Klahowya Eagles, take on No. 4 Seattle Academy at 4 p.m. Friday in the state’s other 1A semifinal matchup.
The top-seeded Eagles have a sparkling 17-0-2 record this season that includes a 5-1 win over No. 16 Wahluke in the first round of the state tournament, followed by a 4-0 win over No. 9 Bellevue Christian in the quarterfinals.
Seattle Academy comes into the final four with a 13-3-4 record with all three of the Cardinals losses coming against the tournament’s No. 2 seed South Whidbey, which was upset by No. 15 Tenino in the opening round.
The Cardinals, which sports the highest strength of schedule rating of the four remaining teams, blanked No. 13 Freeman 4-0 to open their state tournament, followed by a 3-2 win over No. 12 Bush in the quarterfinal round.
Montesano will play either of these teams on Saturday. If the Bulldogs advance to the state championship game, they will meet the winner at 3 p.m. at Shoreline Stadium.
The losing teams in the semifinals will meet in the state’s third/fourth-place game at 11 a.m. on Saturday ahead of the state championship match.
Fatigue could be a factor on Saturday, as the teams will be playing matches on consecutive days.