Sports

Kickers take dramatic path to playoffs

"“Un-freaking-believable.”That was the sentiment voiced by a North Kitsap fan following the Viking girls’ soccer team’s 1-0 loss to Bainbridge Thursday – an end-of-the-regular-season contest that propelled the Spartans in and the Vikings out of next week’s double-elimination West Central District playoffs.It’s a sentiment that could just as easily apply to the Spartan girls, who picked themselves up from the brink of district elimination two weeks ago to close the season with four straight wins – including three over teams which had previously beaten Bainbridge this year.When the dust settled after Thursday’s slate of league contests, Bainbridge made up two slots in the OL standings, vaulting from sixth to fourth, and finished at 9-4-3 with 30 points – just one up on Central Kitsap for the league’s final automatic district bid – by virtue of victories over Olympic, Port Townsend, Bremerton and NK.“Beating Olympic just made us crazy for beating all these other teams,” senior Spartan forward Kim Loddeke said, moments after she and her teammates celebrated with a midfield dogpile following the final minutes of Thursday’s dramatic season finale.“We just wanted it so much. I’ve wanted this for four years. All that time, we’ve never beaten NK or Olympic, never beaten a 4A team, and we finally did it. It’s great.”The clinching game contained all the drama one would expect from such a game with so much on the line. The Vikings, which actually finished ahead of Bainbridge in the league standings with a 10-4-1 mark, managed to contain the ball for most of the contest on the Bainbridge side of the midfield area.Every once in a while, however, Bainbridge’s superior speed and wing-passing attack would slip through, and it was on such a run that the Spartans scored the game’s sole goal in the 29th minute of play.Sophomore Emily Haber looped a long pass from the Vikings’ side of the midfield that fell behind an NK defender toward the waiting foot of senior forward Laura Loverich, who chipped the ball on one touch over the head of Viking keeper Nicole Funk – perhaps the league’s best – and into the back of the net.The second half saw North Kitsap intensify its own attack, but the home team was frustrated at every turn by strong defensive play by Jessica Spivey, Alice Bischoff and Carly Keehn, who never let their opposing numbers get a step ahead with the ball toward a clean shot.Underscoring their efforts was the heroic play of keeper Maegen Beattie, who withstood a maddening flurry in the final minutes, including a dramatic breakaway by NK’s Brandy Madle with 20 seconds remaining.Beattie, however, rushed forward to meet Madle, who was bearing in directly in front of the goal. She slid on her knees to smother Madle’s kick at the last possible instant – a superlative effort that Bainbridge head coach Susan Fowler admitted saved her team’s season.It was a thrilling topper to a team effort that began two weeks before.“All the girls realized that this was the crunch point,” Fowler said. “This is where we’ve got to get going if we’re going to make it. Our strategy was just to keep the intensity going for the whole game, to not lose our poise, and to step up the attack.”By contrast, Tuesday’s contest with Bremerton – a team that slipped past the Spartans 2-1 four weeks before – was purely anticlimactic. Fowler moved Carolyn Mackenzie, who normally helps anchor the Bainbridge backfield, to a forward position. The moved paid big dividends as the senior scored two goals, just missed on a third, and recorded an assist in the Spartans’ 5-1 win.Fab Rezayat, Haber and Loverich also tallied, while Loddeke and Keehn registered assists.Bainbridge JV 5, North Kitsap 2: Combined with the Spartans’ 7-0 win over Bremerton Tuesday, coach Helen Hendrickson’s squad finished the season with a remarkable 13-0-2 record.Becca Ivey and Crisma Biggs each recorded three goals over both games. Heather Wolf-Smeeth added a score against NK, while Sarah Fowler tallied twice against Bremerton and Lindsay Carlson and Courtney McFarlane scored once."

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