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Spartans get taste of playoff-level action in win over Bellevue
BAINBRIDGE— It was do or die.
Sink or swim.
Or, at least, that’s what the Spartans thought.
Bainbridge jumped to an early 1-0 lead and held on to win 7-3 against Bellevue at the Bainbridge Island Aquatics Center Wednesday.
For much of the game, the Spartans thought they needed the win to secure a spot in next week’s wild card tournament to advance to the state tournament.
Bainbridge Coach Drew Keller knew better, but not until just before the start of Wednesday’s game.
Keller said he thought Bainbridge was tied with Shorewood-Shorecrest and needed a win to advance to the playoffs. He found out just before the game from Bellevue’s coach that the combined Shorewood-Shorecrest team was not eligible for post-season play, however, so no tie-breaker was needed for the Spartans.
Keller kept it a secret until the final timeout in Wednesday’s matchup, knowing that playing under pressure would help the Spartans later.
“The girls thought it was a win or go home sort of situation,” Keller said.
“I wanted them to have that high-pressure game and feel it and learn from it,” he said.
If that was the goal, then put these Spartans at the head of the class. The team was tight on defense, built on the early lead crafted by 10th-grader Alyssa Estes on her cross-cage shot, and played hard until the end.
Then there was the performance by Maya Nathan, the team’s freshman goalkeeper who has never played sports before.
“Mia was lights out,” Keller said. “It’s just unheard of to have a freshman in the varsity goal. But she was outstanding today. She was everywhere.”
Nathan made seven saves, including several key ones down the stretch, and forced some questionable shots by Bellevue.
“She made that goal look small,” Keller said.
“I can’t even describe how insane it is that she does what she does,” the coach added. “A goalie is a tough spot in any sport. There’s a lot of pressure. She’s a young player; this is her first high school season playing. It’s awesome, it’s so fun to see.”
Nathan’s stout defense seemed to rattle the Wolverines, who sent a large number of shots over the bar or bouncing off it.
Nathan’s passing was also spot on, and she also came up big when Bellevue had the numbers on Bainbridge.
“They were 0-8 on six-on-fives,” Keller said. “The field players shifted well, but it was Mia who got us out of the six-on-fives. She had like four or five blocks and they started missing over the bar.”
This week’s win came after two tough losses in a row. The Spartans hung with Newport for much of the game on Monday, but their powerhouse visitors eventually pulled away for a 11-5 win.
And late last week, the Spartans fell to Shorewood 10-9 in sudden death, triple overtime.
“It was a tough game,” Keller said of Friday’s marathon that seemed to play longer than “Water World.”
“That can be demoralizing, but they came back and played really hard on Monday against Newport and played really well,” Keller said. “We felt like we were in a good spot coming into this game.”
“They totally stepped up,” he said of the Spartans.
Keller added he thought the overtime battle seemed to be the high mark of the season.
“We kept playing for so long and played really well, great defense, great game communication. If my season would had ended that day, I would have been really happy with the heart that they showed in that overtime loss.”
Those two losses gave the Spartans the mettle they needed Wednesday. The bench and the Spartans’ younger players also contributed to the Bellevue win, Keller said.
And the offense was notable, given the Wolverines’ skilled goalkeeper, Sierra Anderson.
“She’s a senior this year, and I’m not going to lie. I’m glad,” Keller said. “I’m sick of shooting on her; she’s a great player, a great goalie.”
Anderson forced the Spartans to shoot for the corners — and so they did.
“Essentially everything that went in - unless it was a deflection that washed in - it had to be a corner,” Keller said.
The Spartans spread the scoring around.
Senior Maggie Alexander led the Spartans with five goals. Josie Davis, a freshman, and Estes had one each.
Against Newport, Evelyn Newman had two goals, Celia Chaussabel added two, and Alexander had one.
In the Shorewood matchup, Newman finished with five goals — and an incredible 14 steals — while Alexander and Amanda Sellman added two each.
“It was just a team game today,” Keller said of the Bellevue game. “They played together, communicated well, and just the little things that we’ve been trying to work on, they buttoned up really well.”