The view looks pretty good from the top of the Mountain.
The Bainbridge Spartans won the Metro League’s Mountain Division title in girls soccer last week, finishing the remarkable regular-season resurgence with a 3-1 win over Eastside Catholic.
The division title was a first for Bainbridge, which finished last year with 3-7-1 conference record and won just two Metro matchups the year before.
The 3-1 dusting of the Crusaders in the Bainbridge-Eastside Catholic game late last week was a bit of payback for the Spartans.
Last year, the Crusaders beat Bainbridge 5-0 and kept Bainbridge out of the playoffs.
This time, the Spartans played spoilers.
Bainbridge jumped to an early 1-0 advantage after Natalie Vukic scored on a pass from Riley Gregoire in the 11th minute.
Tia Beck gave the Eastside Catholic faithful something to cheer about when she evened the score at 1-1 in the 31st minute.
The second half offense was all Spartans, however. Vukic fed Rosie Kerstetter with a pass for a goal in the 51st minute, then Vukic nailed the net for the final score of the evening in the 60th minute with a pass from fellow Spartan Leah Mulholland.
The victory left Bainbridge with a 8-1-1 conference record (13-1-1 overall).
“I’m very, very proud of the team,” said co-captain Haley Story. “We definitely came up as the underdogs after our finish last season.”
“Not very many teams expected much from us,” she added. “But I think we knew that we would do well. It was great to prove everybody wrong and come out on top.”
The Spartans finished the season ranked at No. 4 in the state, one notch above arch-rival Seattle Prep (5-0-5 Metro, 9-1-6 overall), the two-time defending state 3A champs.
“I felt like we deserved to be up there, we definitely proved ourselves this season,” Story said. “And being put above Prep in the rankings finally was great.”
“It is exciting,” Spartan Coach Scott Druker said of his first title while at the helm of the team.
He recalled the team’s earlier shot at winning a title, the battle for the conference crown 2009 when Holy Names won in a Spartan heartbreaker, 1-0, on a goal in the final minute of play.
That’s well in the past, though, and the Spartans are a much different team than that 14-5-3 squad.
The Metro League tournament began this week, but as the Mountain Division champs, Bainbridge gets two byes before it faces its first test Tuesday.
Druker said the time off for the Spartans was a concern, so he’s planned two scrimmages this week with players brought up from the junior varsity squad to fill out two teams’ worth of positions.
There’s one thing that the layoff won’t affect, he said.
“Chemistry. We do have some really good players. But I’ve got to be honest with you, what’s creating some of the dominance that we’ve had in some of these games was the chemistry,” Druker said.
“We’ve got more than a legitimate shot to do something,” he said. “I think things are clicking. They know what I like, they know what I expect. I think we’re working together better than we have before.”
The Spartans also boast the top two scorers in the Metro League: Vukic and Kerstetter.
Vukic had 23 goals and nine assists (55 points total) in the regular season.
Kerstetter is second in the conference with 13 goals and 12 assists (38 points total).
For the senior Kerstetter, her rise as a scoring leader was solidified on Senior Night, the last home game of the season when Bainbridge buried Lakeside 6-0.
Kerstetter scored four goals for the Spartans in the match.
“She was on fire,” said Story. “We were like, ‘Wow.’”
“She has definitely been playing very, very well this whole year,” Story added. “That was exciting to see; that there’s more than one person who can score the goals for us and take the game into their own hands.”
“It was Senior Night, so it was emotional for us,” Kerstetter said.
That said, Kerstetter added that the team will continue to stress what’s given them success this year; working in twos, focussing on their play, and not their opponent’s.
“We’ve been playing really strong, so we need to just keep doing what we’re doing,” she said.
Other Spartans agreed.
“I think we just need to keep playing how we played all season and not psyche ourselves out that it’s playoffs,” Story said.
“We’re going to be playing the same teams that we’ve been playing all regular season. We just have to not be overconfident and go into every single game playing as hard as we can.”
Story also said she expects Seattle Prep to play well on their side of the bracket, and that Bainbridge might just face Holy Names once again as the playoffs continue.
She also figures that Vukic, as the league’s top scorer, will get more than her fair share of attention from defenders.
“It definitely puts a big target on Natalie. They always have one defender on her and she gets double-teamed all the time,” Story said.
“I think that we are strong enough on the offense that we’ve been able to not focus on her as much. I think that our team has definitely been able to play around that,” Story added.
“And she’s a phenomenal player, so she is able to get out of most of the double teams and still score goals.”
The Spartans’ only loss this season came on a 3-2 decision against Seattle Prep. Bainbridge battled the Panthers to a 1-1 draw during the rematch on Oct. 16.
Prep won the first matchup with two goals in the last two minutes of the game.
“I think the loss to Seattle Prep helped us realize that yes, we have to work in every single game,” Story said. “We thought we had that one won, and it just got taken from us.”
Though a trip to state is the big goal, the Spartans know they face a more immediate challenge: the Metro tournament.
“If we can get through Metro, we’ve got a chance,” the coach said. “Every year, they are some of the top teams. I feel good about it.”
“None of our games from here out are going to be easy,” Story added.
“They are all going to have to be games that we fight for,” she said.