By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
EDMONDS — Edmonds-Woodway had to hunker down late in the second half of last week’s 4A District 1 girls soccer championship game.
Jackson, down 1-0, made a strong push in the final 10 minutes to try to score the tying goal and send the game into overtime.
But as they had done in 10 of their previous 11 games, the Warriors withstood the onslaught to emerge with a 1-0 victory and claimed the district title. The shutout was Edmonds-Woodway’s seventh in its last 12 contests.
Defense played an integral role in the Warriors’ surge in the regular season and playoffs following a sputtering 0-4-2 start to the season.
“It’s been huge,” said Edmonds-Woodway head coach Bill LeCompte “Over the last half of the season, we’ve done a really good job of either being committed to stepping in front of the ball when it’s about to be shot or being in the right spot to close out a lot of gaps that we let go early on that cost us. … Just to clog up the zone and not allow shots was why we ended up getting away with the 1-0 win.”
Edmonds-Woodway secured the district’s top seed to state and the opportunity to host a first-round game. The Warriors (12-5-2 overall) was scheduled to face Gig Harbor (13-3-1) on Tuesday night, after The Weekly Herald’s deadline.
LeCompte didn’t make any major changes to the defense after the rocky start to the season. It was more a matter of refining the defensive game plan. As far as LeCompte was concerned, Edmonds-Woodway’s back line of senior Risa Pieters, sophomore Sophia Colvin and juniors Emily Storino and Michaela Moren was solid.
“They’re very confident players,” he said. “I think we’ve got some of the best backs in the conference, both north and south.”
LeCompte clarified the role the midfielders had in the team’s defensive scheme. The outside midfielders started doing a better job of playing the marking roles he wanted to see. The center midfielders also improved on their transition from offense to defense and were not so out of balance on the field. The end result was that they were better able to defend the middle of the field.
“It was just getting everybody defensively, this is what we want to do as a team,” LeCompte said. “It cost us a few games early on where we weren’t defending well just collectively.”
Moren saw a definite change in the Warriors’ play.
“We worked a lot harder as a team and were more focused,” said Moren, who LeCompte described as the best defender in the league.
The junior standout originally was an outside midfielder, but LeCompte saw that Moren could help out on defense and he eventually started her there as a freshman.
“She’s definitely the glue that holds it together across the back,” LeCompte said. “She’s extremely physical. She’s got very good speed. She reads the plays well. We look for her to pull up a big tackle.”
Moren made two huge defensive plays at critical moments against Jackson, LeCompte added.
Freshman Kiera Towell took over as the goalkeeper about a third of the way into the regular season and has come on strong. LeCompte wasn’t quite sure she was ready to be the varsity starter, but eventually he became convinced.
“I wanted her to have confidence before we turned it over to her and she did a great job, in some respects, in being patient and also stepping forward and finding that confidence,” LeCompte said.
Coming into the season, Towell’s goal was to make varsity and be the starting goalkeeper. She got her wish.
“It’s like a lot of pressure too because you don’t want to mess up,” Towell said.
So far Towell has handled it well.
“Over the last three weeks, she’s had some big saves and definitely some key saves over the last two nights that realistically, I don’t think she would have made it in the early part of the season,” LeCompte said. “She didn’t have the confidence she has now. She is just getting stronger and stronger.”