Hoquiam Grizzly Taylor Strom’s penalty kick prowess sent the Grizzlies to the district tournament.
Strom picked up a penalty kick goal in the first half and another one late in the second half to give Hoquiam a 2-1 win over Elma in a 1A District IV Tournament play-in game on Saturday in Montesano.
Hoquiam will now play Castle Rock on the road at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in an elimination game.
Strom’s second successful penalty attempt came with score tied at a goal apiece in the 70th minute when an Elma player was called for a handball in the box.
The senior midfielder sent her shot under the crossbar and over Grace Koonrad’s outstretched arms to give Hoquiam a 2-1 lead with just over 10 minutes to go.
“I didn’t want to power it. I just wanted to position the ball because if I go with power I could send it over the bar,” Strom said. “I was just trying to decide what corner to go to and what way the keeper was looking.”
Elma looked to tie the game in the waning minutes but came up short after failing to connect on a corner kick just before the final whistle.
Once the ball found its way away from Hoquiam’s goal, the Grizzlies did all they could to kill the clock and held possession for the final two minutes of regulation.
Elma head coach Evan Valentine said it was a disappointing way to conclude the season,
“Soccer is a really ruthless game and it works out that way. You can have better stats in every single category and they can get two calls that go their way and you lose. That’s how soccer is, it’s unforgiving,” he said. “Even though we were the better team today, we didn’t win. That’s what happens sometimes.”
Elma didn’t score until the second half but appeared to be on its way to an early goal with how they controlled the pace of play early in the contest.
The Eagles’ offensive attack generated four corner kicks in the first 20 minutes of play, but Elma couldn’t find a way to get on the board.
It was Hoquiam that scored first in the 25th minute when a foul was called in the box and Strom came on for her first penalty kick of the day.
She placed her shot low and to the right to beat Elma keeper Paige Knutson and give Hoquiam a 1-0 lead.
Knutson was placed on the bench due to injury after a half of play but came up with a key diving save on a shot by Sadie Carlyle to keep the deficit from growing.
Elma went much of the second half without producing too many scoring chances but finally broke through in the 65th minute. Harlee Nelson ran on to a bouncing ball and blasted a shot to the far post from about 20 yards out to tie the game.
The game was tied for roughly five minutes until Strom’s decisive penalty kick.
Hoquiam head coach Drew Grannemann said his team did well to not panic when the score was tied and acknowledged that a little bit of luck helped them continue the season.
“We didn’t overreact, we were able to adapt defensively,” he said. “We had opportunities, and I think we should have finished a couple of them but we just kind of got lucky with the bounce of the ball today.”
Hoquiam’s next opponent, Castle Rock, finished the season second in the 1A Trico, three games behind league-winning La Center. Grannemann said he expects the Rockets’ physicality to be on display.
“We used to play them every year and we haven’t lost to them recently. (The 1A Trico) is going through a transition period with King’s Way not playing so well and La Center coming out on top,” he said. “They play tough down there. They’re physical and kind of tough. It should be fun.”