Records would indicate that the two teams were evenly matched. Both teams came into the contest with identical records of 6-3-2 in league and 6-4-2 overall -- tied for third in the 4A South standings. The biggest difference between the two teams coming into the game might have been that Kamiak had the advantage in head-to-head competition, having beaten the Timberwolves earlier in the season.
"I knew that we had to at least beat (them) or tie," Kamiak coach Beth Stewart said. "Because if we ended up tied at the end of the season we would have advanced because we beat them in the first game. But obviously, a win puts us in a much better place going forward."
The Knights have a one-game lead over Jackson and the tiebreaker in their back pocket, meaning the Timberwolves have their work cut out for them.
"It was big, we knew and they knew," Jackson head coach Jesslyn Kellerman said. "I told them, 'this is the most important game of our season. We need to beat this team. We need to and we know we can.' And up until the last 10 minutes of the game, I wasn't even nervous because I just felt like even though they had better offensive opportunities, we controlled the possession and we were playing possession more."
With both teams feeling each other out in the early minutes, it was the Knights that got the early goal, scored by freshman Emele Chaddock and assisted by junior Chardalise Madrigal.
Chaddock's shot went off the hands of Jackson goalkeeper Callie Vanaelst, but still found its way into the back of the net.
"It just was a rocket going in," Stewart said. "She has probably one of the hardest shots I've ever seen for a girl her age, she's only a freshman. When you can strike a ball like that it's pretty tough to stop it."
Less than six minutes had come off the game clock, but the Knights found themselves leading 1-0.
"It was huge for us," Stewart said of getting on the board early. "More importantly, we have lost some close games in the end and we have really been working on finishing all 80 minutes and never letting down. I think we've lost one in the last 18 seconds of double overtime. We tied another in the last two seconds of a game. That was something that we had really been talking about and emphasizing that we had to finish the game. But getting on the board early, it takes the pressure off."
Kellerman said the early goal not only was the ultimate difference on the scoreboard, but had a big effect on momentum early.
"The difference was the fact that they scored right away," she said. "Not only obviously with score wise, but it just gave them a lot of confidence because they scored and it made us a little less confident and a little more nervous."
The game lacked many legitimate scoring opportunities for either side, though Jackson did have a great opportunity for the equalizer in the 74th minute. A Kamiak defender was trying to drop the ball back to her goalkeeper, but failed to strike the ball fully, creating a breakaway scoring opportunity for Jackson senior Bailey Ellis. Ellis was met near the top of the penalty box by Kamiak goalkeeper Emma Makela, creating just enough of a distraction to throw thwart Ellis' shot.
"I just wanted her to shoot it earlier," Kellerman said. "The keeper did a great job coming out early, she was already out because it was supposed to be a drop. I was waiting for a moment like that in the game. We got a couple, we got a couple of good chances that we should have put away and we didn't. When you are playing against a team with a good goalkeeper and strong defenders you have to finish every chance you get."
The only bad news for the Knights was an injury to freshman defender Tylor Adcock. Stewart said Adcock had struggled earlier in the season with a bad ankle and left Tuesday night's game with what appeared to be a lower-leg injury. Stewart said Adcock was taken to the hospital and is hopeful that the injury is nothing more than a sprain, though she hadn't heard anything after the game.
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Everett Memorial Stadium
Goals--Emele Chaddock (K). Assists--Chardalise Madrigal (K). Goalkeepers--Kamiak: Emma Makela. Jackson: Callie Vanaelst. Records--Kamiak 7-3-2 league, 7-4-2 overall; Jackson 6-4-2, 6-5-2.
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