MOUNT VERNON – The Snohomish Panthers were no match for the Oak Harbor Wildcats – until it counted most.
With a state playoff berth on the line, the Panthers, who lost twice to the Western Conference North champion Wildcats during the regular season, played them dead even through 80 regulation minutes and two five-minute overtime periods.
But in the game-deciding shootout, the first three Panthers missed and Oak Harbor’s Kaylea Kingma, Tina Nicolas and Katie Schoeffling all put their shots in the net to give the Wildcats a 2-1 win Friday in a winner-to-state, loser-out 4A Northwest District girls soccer playoff game at Mount Vernon High School.
Oak Harbor (14-2-2 overall) plays the winner of today’s District 3/4 playoff between Puyallup and Central Kitsap in the first round of the state playoffs on Tuesday.
“I can’t even say how proud I am of this team,” Snohomish coach Dan Pingrey said. “We went from being thought to be out of it to playing the best soccer Snohomish has played. For three games we were warriors.”
Snohomish (13-6), the third seed from the Wesco North, defeated Wesco South third seed, Shorewood, and second seed, Jackson, earlier this week to reach Friday’s consolation final.
“Snohomish gave us a dogfight,” Oak Harbor coach Gretchen Hanson said. “Their district play was phenomenal. Somewhere along the way, they decided this was something they wanted.”
It was also something Oak Harbor wanted. The Wildcats, who were eliminated from the district tournament by Edmonds-Woodway last season, were on the brink of elimination again after losing Wednesday’s district title game to E-W.
“We’ve been through a lot together,” Hanson said. “I’ve watched these kids come up since U-13. Their ability is phenomenal. When they’re at the top of their game, they can beat anybody.”
And they were at the top of their game in the first half Friday.
Just 11 minutes into the game, senior midfielder Gretyl Pruss headed in a goal off a free kick by Jenny White and the Wildcats defense seemed impenetrable. On every Snohomish push, there was at least one Oak Harbor defender there to parry the thrust.
But Snohomish found a weakness in the second half.
“We wanted to get the ball behind (the defense),” Pingrey said. “That was our objective in the second half and we did it.
“The way we played this week compared to the way we played during the (regular) season was like night and day. One of the girls came up with our battle cry this week. She said, ‘The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.’”
Fourteen minutes into the second half, the Panthers’ Brittney Marshall notched the equalizer. Snohomish had worked the ball behind the Oak Harbor defense, resulting in a throw-in to the right of the Wildcats’ goal. The ball was batted back-and-forth finally landing on Marshall’s knee. She nudged it between the goalkeeper and a Wildcats defender, they gave chase and the ball rolled inexorably into the net.
But that was the last time the ball would end up in the goal until the shootout.
At Mount Vernon High School
Goals – Snohomish: Marshall Oak Harbor: G. Pruss. Goalkeepers – Snohomish: Lee. Oak Harbor: Shulock, Paddock. Records – Snohomish 13-6 overall. Oak Harbor 14-2-2.