EVERETT — There isn’t much the Wesco 4A league champs haven’t prepared for. Penalty kicks, however, have never made their way into practice.
“Those are the first PKs they have shot all year,” Jackson coach Sarah Smart said. “(The players) picked the order. They knew. We didn’t come up with it at all. It was all them.”
So how did sophomore defender Emma Rich earn the honors of taking the final penalty kick to decide the 4A District 1 championship?
“I chose myself,” Rich said. “Nobody would step up, so I decided I would step up and do it. I was nervous, but I wasn’t thinking about anything and just shot it.”
Tied after 80 minutes, tied after 10 minutes of overtime and tied after four rounds of penalty kicks, Rich was tasked with giving the Timberwolves their fourth consecutive district title and another state tournament berth.
She calmly placed a low shot just under the outstretched arms of Lake Stevens keeper Jadyn Parke and into the left side of the net to seal a dramatic victory — 2-2 in regulation and 3-2 in the shootout — over the Vikings during a cold and wet match Thursday night at Goddard Stadium.
Jackson keeper Kayleigh Sedlacek saved two shots during the shootout, including Lake Stevens’ final shot that provided Rich the opportunity to slot home the match-winner.
“We’ve won (a district title) four years in a row now, and that’s not easy to do,” Smart said. “Both teams played really hard. Both teams were really in it. It was one of those moments that you will remember your whole life.”
The Vikings, who were in position to win after taking a second half lead, now need to beat Kamiak on Saturday to claim the district’s second state berth.
Jackson beat Lake Stevens 2-1 on Sept. 28 before the Vikings topped the Timberwolves 2-0 on Oct. 24.
Jackson quickly ruled out another shutout as Katie Cheng put the Timberwolves in front 1-0 just 10 minutes into the district title game.
Cheng got the ball on the right side of the field about 25 yards from goal and sent a perfectly-placed shot sailing just over the head of Lake Stevens goalkeeper Rachel Compton and into the back of the net.
After Jackson spent most of the first 15 minutes on the attack, the Vikings settled in and began creating some scoring chances for themselves.
Lake Stevens forward Amber Elliano had the ball at her feet from close range at the 20-minute mark, but couldn’t get a shot off.
Juniror defender Kacey LaBoda evened the game at 1-1 late in the first half.
With three minutes to go until halftime, LaBoda, who had been ushered into the attacking third following a Lake Stevens throw-in, got a ball to her feet in the middle of the 18-yard box, and in one smooth motion pivoted, turned to her right and blasted a shot past Sedlacek into the upper-right corner of the goal.
Junior Sam Foley gave the Vikings a 2-1 lead 11 minutes in the second half, scoring after Lake Stevens pieced together a nice sequence of passes out of a corner kick. Foley eventually received a crisp feed inside the 18-yard box and placed a shot just past the outstretched arms of Sedlacek.
But back-and-forth the Vikings and Timberwolves went. From leading early to trailing in the second half, Jackson pulled even in the 59th minute thanks to a brilliant long pass from Rich coupled with a clinical finish from Morgan Heinrich.
Heinrich, a senior forward, was slashing toward goal, and Rich placed a ball to her perfectly in stride from roughly 30 yards out. Heinrich, extended a foot to the ball in mid-air and re-directed it past Parke, who replaced Compton in the second half.
“We scored first and we scored last, so that’s always a good feeling,” Smart said. “It was just the emotions that went in and out. We fought really hard, everyone on the team supported each other. It was incredible.”