By Morris Malakoff
FEDERAL WAY — The crumpled postures and soft sobs of the Sultan Turks girls soccer team huddled on the damp artificial turf near the center of the field at Federal Way Stadium indicated how hard they were taking Friday’s 2-1 shootout loss to North Cascades Conference rival Meridian.
The semifinal loss was the fourth this season for Sultan (16-5) at the hands of the Trojans (19-1) and it was by far the most painful. It left an obviously disappointed and frustrated head coach Andrea Fuller with the task of regrouping her team for today’s 10 a.m. game against Cashmere to determine the third and fourth place finishers in the 2A tournament.
"I don’t know how to get them ready, to tell the truth," said Fuller. "But our girls know how to do it. The seniors will be up for their final game."
Sultan missed its first two shots in the shootout and its fourth, while Meridian made three straight goals following an opening-shot miss.
Meridian’s fourth shooter, Jackie Brinkman, advanced the Trojans to today’s championship game against Naches Valley and broke the hearts of the Turks.
Leading scorer Heather Howard gave the Turks the lead midway through the opening period. Battling a Meridian defender 3 yards in front of Trojan goalkeeper Rebecca Noel, Howard got just enough of a foot on the ball to slide it past Noel and into the net.
Meridian came close to tying the score five minutes later when Jennifer Johnson fired a rocket from 32 yards that caromed off the crossbar above the outstretched arms of Sultan goalkeeper Molly Cramer.
Sultan’s one goal lead held up until the 17th minute of the second half when Meridian forward Katie Johnson slammed the ball high into the upper left corner of the Sultan net to tie the score.
The Turks appeared to have re-taken the lead a minute later when an apparent Howard goal was called back.
Regulation time ended in a 1-1 tie. Two scoreless five-minute overtime periods ordained that the decision be decided in a shootout.
It was Fuller, fighting back a storm of emotion, who best summed up the path to the final outcome for two closely-matched teams in a closely fought battle. "It’s a lousy way to end a game," she said.
Goals—Sultan: Howard. Meridian: Johnson. Goalkeepers—Sultan: Cramer. Meridian: Noel. Records—Sultan 16-5. Meridian 19-1.
Sultan soccer players anxiously watch the shootout that decided Friday’s 2A state playoff in favor of Meridian. From left to right: Jessi Hill (11), Mindy Cramer (7), Jolene Matkins (18), Mara Potteiger (6), Heather Howard (17), Brynn Aukland and Katie Brown (8).