The Wildcats treated the match with that kind of importance, defeating the second-place Knights 2-1 at Terry Ennis Stadium to stay unbeaten and secure their hold on first place in the Cascade Conference.
"We've thought of it as our championship game so far this year," senior co-captain Shelby Koch said. "This is really what we've been working for all year."
After Murphy escaped King's with a 1-0 victory Sept. 18, both teams have gone undefeated both in conference play and outside it. Both sides knew Tuesday would go a long way to determining the crown.
As if the teams weren't anticipating the kickoff enough for the much anticipated showdown, the game's assistant referees were late in arriving, delaying the 6 p.m. start by about 25 minutes.
"It was kind of a bummer because all of us were so pumped up, but all the captains tried to keep everyone in the mode," Koch said.
The late start had little effect on the Murphy offense, which got on the board quickly in the third minute.
Koch deflected a King's pass near midfield that was intercepted by Calisse Crisler. Crisler executed the perfect give and go to Koch, who was streaking down the right sideline. Koch took a shot from long range, but King's goalie Takara Mitsui couldn't control the save and Tena Ungvarsky cleaned up from the weak side with a putback goal.
In the 14th minute, Ungvarsky was in position again. This time a long ball came in from Melissa Rivera and Ungvarsky trapped it with her chest and converted again to make the score 2-0. It was the sophomore forward's third two-goal game of the season, giving her 10 goals for the season, one more than Koch.
"We do personal goals (every game) and my personal goal was to get two goals and I did it, so it was very exciting," the diminutive Ungvarsky said. "I started so I was kind of energized."
First-year Wildcat coach Mike Bartley said game opened exactly as planned.
"Awesome start," Bartley said. "They were excited to play."
The King's sideline had the opposite feeling after giving the Wildcats all they could at home. The Knights weren't the same team on the road.
"The Knights didn't come out playing their game," King's coach Nicole Gabelein said. "We came out not hitting passes, not connecting, just not in the game. Kind of like, 'what's going on?'"
Murphy controlled the possession early in the second half, but King's started to put on more pressure and play better defense as the cool night air moved in. The Knights persistence paid off in the 79th minute when Ashton Perry got a shot past Murphy goalkeeper Anna Whitehouse.
For Bartley, it was a lesson that he can take to his undefeated team in practice about closing out games.
The long-time coach of the Jackson girls and current Murphy boys coach hasn't noticed his team talking about being undefeated, though the Wildcats are 12-0 with just four regular-season games to go.
"They are really good at taking one game at a time -- better than me," Barley said with a smile. "They don't think of trying to be undefeated."
They do talk about the No. 1 seed to the 2A playoffs and the league title, however, both of which the Wildcats missed out on last year on the way to a third-place finish in the 2A tourney. A victory Thursday at Cedarcrest clinches the No. 1 seed and another 'W' clinches a share of the league crown. The Red Wolves, who finished atop the league and second in state in 2011 have recently become Murphy's most heated rival.
"We won't have any trouble being motivated against (Cedarcrest)," Bartley said.
At Terry Ennis Stadium
Goals--Tena Ungvarsky 2 (A), Ashton Perry (K). Assists--Shelby Koch (A), Melissa Rivera (A). Goalkeepers--King's:Takara Mitsui Archbishop Murphy: Anna Whitehouse.
Records--King's (8-2 league, 10-2 overall), Archbishop Murphy (10-0, 12-0).
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