Sports

Vukic leads Spartan comeback against Bishop Blanchet

Spartan Natalie Vukic rolls to the goal and leaves the Blanchet goalkeeper in the dust during Bainbridge’s 3-1 win Tuesday.  - Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review
Spartan Natalie Vukic rolls to the goal and leaves the Blanchet goalkeeper in the dust during Bainbridge’s 3-1 win Tuesday.
— image credit: Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review

 

But a not-so-great night for the goalkeeper from Bishop Blanchet who was behind the standout soccer star’s bull’s-eye.

Vukic scored two goals in the Spartans’ 3-1 win over the Braves Tuesday at Memorial Stadium, including the tying shot and the go-ahead goal in the Metro League victory.

Vukic, however, had a crazy number of shots on goal right before the half, and a few just missed making the score a much more lopsided affair.

“I thought they were pretty good shots. They just missed the post by like that much,” Vukic said.

“I was like, ‘OK. Next time I get the ball, I’m going to score,’” she added.

The Spartan win earlier this week was its second in a row after a scoreless tie against arch rival Seattle Prep late last week.

The team had a bit of a turnaround after coming up empty against Prep, Vukic said.

“I think we definitely connected more and we played more as a team than the last game,” she said.

“Against Seattle Prep, we have a rivalry — well, we think we have a rivalry — and every time we play them we kind of go balls to the wall,” Vukic said.

Against Blanchet, Bainbridge fell into an early 1-0 hole after Julia Lewis scored in the 24th minute.

The Braves scored on a set play in front of the Spartan goal after controlling a bounce in the box.

“You know how it is on set plays,” said Bainbridge Coach Scott Druker. “It’s never good for the defensive team if the ball is hitting the ground. End of story.”

“It’s never good for the defensive team if the offensive team gets a free shot at the ball,” he said. “It’s a rare chance that somebody’s going to miss inside the six.”

The Braves’ advantage didn’t last long, however, and Vukic nailed the net with her first goal with an assist from Charlotte Rosen.

Her second goal came in the 36th minute, when she broke free of her Blanchet defenders and beat the Braves goalkeeper in a one-on-one matchup.

“It was all her,” Druker said.

Still, it was a good lesson for the other Spartans.

“We are always trying to get other people to think and be that way and let them know that they can do it,” he explained.

“She’s definitely a leader in the fact that she can play team ball,” Druker said of Vukic.

“And I think in any sport, whether it be football or soccer or basketball, whatever, the idea of changing the game ... that unpredictability is very hard on the defense. And she creates that unpredictability. That’s what makes her effective — along with the skill,” Druker said.

Riley Gregoire closed out the scoring for the Spartans in the 78th minute.

Druker admitted the winning tally could have been larger, only if.

“We had our opportunities in the beginning of the game. There were golden opportunities,” he said.

“It just goes to show that you can’t just rely on goals scored. You can’t always rely on defenders. It really is a team thing,” Druker said.

“There are going to be days where our offense explodes and we get those five goals. But we also had a game this year where we weren’t putting it in the net. So we scored once and that means defensively, we’ve got to get a shutout to win the game.

“But, overall, one of the things that I think have made us good, or better, than the last couple of years is: The team plays offense. The team plays defense. There is no such thing as designated roles.

“We keep pressing and pressing and eventually, we get somebody loose,” he said.

The victory pushed the Spartans to 3-0-1 in the Metro (7-0-1 overall).

The win was due to more than just Vukic’s heroics, the coach added.

“The one thing that is making us successful — besides the obvious answers that everybody sees — things that people don’t see,” Druker said. “There are lots of other people who are doing the dirty work that aren’t usually in the stat sheets. The goal scorers, the assisters, the people that make that great clear on defense; well, there are other hard workers that are winning the balls and getting it to these guys that are getting that first pass, that created the assist.

“If we can keep that going, then we should be able to go deep in the playoffs.”

Druker said the team had moved past its 0-0 finish against Seattle Prep and have made adjustments.

“They are a good team. So when you play a good team, they don’t make you look as good as you are. We tried some things, and we corrected a few things,” he said.

The biggest problem was letting the Panthers get out in space.

“We were getting too spread out. We weren’t moving as a team on defense and offense,” Druker said.

“The space that we normally have between the forwards and midfields and the midfields and the defenders, if that space is too large, and there’s so much gap, you’re giving the other team room to play in.

“Finding that space and giving ourselves opportunity for second chances ... like when the defense clears the ball, we want to be there to clean it up, not them getting the ball all the time. And I think that was one thing that was lacking,” Druker said.

Next up for the Spartans is Eastside Catholic on the road Tuesday, Oct. 15 followed by a home game at Memorial Stadium against Holy Names Academy on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Druker noted that any Mountain-side team in the Metro is going to mean trouble this season.

“Years have shown that event the team that finishes first, a lot of times they will get tied or beaten by a worse team. So that happens,” he said.

Druker noted that it’s advice he’s shared up and down his roster.

“I remind them of those things. I don’t care what their record is; remember what happened this year, remember what happened.

“I tell them it’s an 80-minute game. I remind them of what happened last year at Seattle Prep. I remind them what happened two years ago against Blanchet. You just gotta keep plugging away.”

“These are good girls,” he added. “They’ll play the full 80.”

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