BELLEVUE — Unable to mount much of an attack against Bellevue’s stifling defense, Stanwood’s margin for error was slim.
The Spartans held up for most of the match, but a loose ball in the box off a set piece proved to be their undoing.
Stanwood surrendered the match’s lone goal in the 62nd minute Tuesday and was eliminated from the Class 3A state girls soccer tournament with a 1-0 first-round loss to the unbeaten Wolverines at Bellevue High School.
The hard-fought defeat ended a strong season for the Spartans (13-7-1), who finished fourth in the Wesco 3A standings and captured fourth place in the district tournament to earn their second consecutive state-playoff appearance and just the fourth state trip in program history.
“They have to be proud of their accomplishments,” Stanwood head coach Lori Stunz said. “They need to let those accomplishments sink in and really reflect on how well they’ve played and how far they’ve come.”
The lone goal came off a corner kick that bounced off several players in the box before finding the foot of Bellevue senior Ellie Bryant, who fired the loose ball into the top shelf of the net for a 1-0 lead. And that was all the senior-laden Wolverines (16-0-2) needed.
“Set pieces are just tricky,” Stunz said. “You’re loading bodies into the box and it’s like a scrum back there. All too often, set pieces lead to goals. And usually they’re the difference-makers in games, especially of this nature.”
Stanwood entered the match having scored 55 goals this season, but the Spartans struggled against a stingy Bellevue defense that’s yielded just eight goals all year. The Wolverines are just the fourth team this season to shut out Stanwood’s high-scoring attack.
Bellevue dominated possession in the first half, during which the Spartans hurried many of their passes and managed just one shot on goal. Stanwood possessed the ball better in the second half, which Stunz credited to improved composure.
“I think (our) second half was much better than (our) first,” she said. “If we played the last 40 and turned that into the first 40, I think we would’ve walked away with a different outcome.”
Bellevue nearly got on the board midway through the first half when senior Sophie Butterfield lined a well-struck free kick off the left goal post from about 25 yards out. The Wolverines also threatened with several scoring chances in the first 10 minutes of the second half, including a dangerous one-timer from Bryant that went just wide of the left post.
Bryant got another chance 12 minutes later and came through, netting the game-winner to hand Stanwood its second consecutive first-round state-playoff loss. The Spartans were eliminated last season with a 3-1 loss to Sumner.
Tuesday marked the last match for a class of six Stanwood seniors that helped lead the Spartans to back-to-back state appearances for the first time in program history.
“All the sophomores know right now is (going) to state,” Stuz said. “That’s the bar that’s been set. And it was set by our leadership with our seniors. … They’re an amazing group and we’re going to definitely miss them.
“They’ve set the bar and they’ve left quite the legacy for others to try to fill.”