At the end of the program’s first-ever trip to the final four, the Montesano Bulldogs team and coaches made it a point that they would be better prepared the next time the Bulldogs found themselves in the state semis.
They didn’t have to wait long.
Despite losing nine seniors from last season’s history-making squad, Montesano finds itself back in the 1A State Tournament’s Final Four.
In many ways, the Bulldogs are a better overall team, committing to an off-season conditioning regimen after gassing out in its two Final Four losses last season.
The extra gas in the tank has led to an impressive 18-2 record that included a 1-0 win over a talented and physical Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) team that pressured and pushed Monte to the brink in Saturday’s quarterfinal game.
But Monte’s defense held and some highlight-reel saves from junior keeper Riley Timmons — including a diving stop as time expired — helped get the Bulldogs back into the state semis, where they’ll face a familiar foe.
Fourth-seeded Monte (18-2 overall) will face No. 1 Klahowya at 3 p.m. Friday at Shoreline Stadium in the state semifinal round.
Last season, Monte’s season ended with a 5-0 loss to the Eagles in the state’s third/fourth-place game.
Klahowya (18-1) has allowed just eight goals this season and the Eagles’ only loss on the year came at the hands of 3A class Auburn Riverside by a score of 1-0 on Oct. 26.
Klahowya showed some chinks in the armor in its last game, allowing three goals in a 5-3 win over No. 8 Cedar Park Christian in last weekend’s state quarterfinal.
Previous to that, Klahowya ripped No. 16 Connell 8-0 to open its state tournament, exhibiting the offensive prowess that brought the program to state titles in 1999 and 2014.
The Eagles are young and stacked with talent, led by senior midfielder Amira Lyons — one of just two seniors on the roster — and feature a bevy of talented athletes who can put the ball into the net.
The Eagles have scored four or more goals in its last six victories, averaging 5.5 goals a game in the process.
Montesano’s offense is led by reigning two-time 1A Evergreen League MVP Mikayla Stanfield, who often draws multiple defenders when she has the ball at her feet and that is not likely to change against the top-ranked Eagles.
The junior forward has 21 of Montesano’s 73 goals this season and also leads the team in assists with nine, often feeding senior forward Lilly Causey (16 goals) for scoring opportunities.
Both teams like to play a possession-passing game through the midfield, meaning scoring chances for both teams could be few and far between, particularly considering how well both teams can play defense.
The survivor will face the winner of No. 3 Lynden Christian (17-2-2) versus No. 2 Seattle Academy (13-0-3) in the state championship game at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The loser will play in the state third/fourth-place game at 11 a.m. on Saturday.