By CHRIS McMULLEN
FEDERAL WAY – If there was a time-of-possession statistic in soccer, the Naches Rangers would have dominated that category Friday.
Using its ball control superiority, Naches stopped the South Whidbey Falcons short of a shot at the state title by winning 2-0 in a Class 2A semifinal game at Federal Way Stadium.
Naches set the tempo early. In just the sixth minute of play, Ranger forward Kellee Keniston scored on a shot from the left side just inside the 18-yard box. Keniston appeared to control the ball with her right hand, knocking it down to her feet, but there was no call by the referee.
In a match up that saw two yellow cards issued, one to a member of each team for dangerous play, the Rangers brought a physical nature to the game that the Falcons could meet but not beat.
In the 25th minute, Naches forward Ashley Flory was hustling hard after a loose ball just as South Whidbey goalkeeper Kellie Horn was coming out after it. There was a collision just inside the 18-yard box. Both players went down hard. Flory got up quickly, while Horn lay on the turf. Horn rose to her feet after the brief shakeup, but was ready to continue playing. Flory was issued a yellow card on the play.
South Whidbey coach Paul Arand knew the team he was playing was tough. “Naches is a big, skilled team that played very well,” he said. “Their defense is big and smart. Give them credit, they played great.”
Naches relied on two people to stop the Falcons. Beth Drollinger and Yesenia Chacon stopped any and all Falcons chances.
South Whidbey had only three shots on goal. Naches had 16, but could only capitalize on the two.
The Rangers dominated the first half by controlling the tempo with a quick, but short passing attack.
“The playing surface (turf) here is a different surface than the stuff we have played on before,” Arand said. “It was hard for us to control the ball out there.”
Both teams had stellar play on the defensive side of the ball.
South Whidbey had great efforts defensively from Kim Julius, Jaci Gutzer and Deanne Waterman. The Rangers’ 16 shots on goal were relatively few compared to what could have been if it were not for the continuous stops made by the South Whidbey defenders.
The second goal by Naches was a thing of beauty. Chacon had a free kick from about 20 yards out. The shot richocheted off of the top crossbar and deflected off of Horn’s hand. The ball then fell toward Keniston and she one-touched the ball into the back of the net from about 5 yards out.
After the game, Arand remained upbeat despite the loss. “We are happy to be here. This is the first time in a while we have had a winning and successful season. We only have two seniors on the team, the rest are all back for next year.
“I look forward to playing Klahowya tomorrow, but this is something we can use to build on.”
Naches will play league nemesis East Valley of Yakima for the state title. East Valley defeated Klahowya 1-0 in double-overtime in the other semifinal.
Wednesday coach Arand told The Herald he would like to meet Klahoywa in the championship game. Klahowya beat South Whidbey a few weeks ago in a seeding game for the state tournament. He will get half of his request when South Whidbey meets Klahoywa in the third-place place game at 10 a.m. today at Federal Way Stadium.
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