SNOHOMISH — The Panthers selected a great time to play their best 80 minutes of the season.
While Snohomish entered Thursday night’s showdown against unbeaten Stanwood with a perfect league record of its own, each of the Panthers’ wins have come against teams in the bottom half of the Wesco standings.
In what was the young Panthers’ first critical league test, Snohomish excelled with stingy defense and opportunistic offense.
“We knew this would be a playoff-type scene tonight,” Panthers coach April VanAssche said, “and it definitely lived up to that. That seriously was probably the best game of our season.”
Taylor Khorrami and Mackenzie Green supplied goals for the Panthers, Gracie Winders locked down Spartans standout Espy Sanchez most of the night, goalkeeper Grace Wales made clutch saves and Snohomish scored a 2-1 win at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
And Snohomish (5-0-0 Wesco 3A, 7-1-1) again used stifling defense to earn the result.
The win marked the seventh consecutive game the Panthers have held an opponent to one goal or less, and that was no small feat Thursday facing a Stanwood (4-1-1, 5-3-1) team with Sanchez, who entered the night with 11 goals, and plenty of other offensive weapons.
“We had one girl, and her only job was to mark (Sanchez),” said VanAssche of Winders. “She did a phenomenal job. Espy still got one on us, but I think we did a good job taking her out of her game as most we could.”
The Panthers got a major boost of momentum early when Khorrami put Snohomish in front 1-0 just 10 minutes in.
Khorrami got loose down the right side of the field, worked her way closer to goal, and blasted a low-liner past Stanwood goalkeeper Kaitlin Larson.
“I heard April on the sideline say, ‘Get it out of your head and just play soccer,” said Khorrami, who admitted she was stressing too much over the game. “After that I got the ball and knew I needed to help the team and score.”
The Spartans spent plenty of time in Snohomish’s defensive third, but despite putting five shots on goal during the first half, Stanwood never tested Wales with anything too threatening.
That changed in the second half.
Stanwood had two great scoring opportunities during the first 15 minutes. Anna DePew received a great cross from Ava Schweiger in the 43rd minute, but a header from close range missed. In the 55th minute, Wales made a great save on a hard-struck shot by Bethany VanSant from close range.
Snohomish capitalized on Stanwood’s missed opportunities, and Green put the Panthers in front 2-0 in the 65th minute with a beautiful volley from 15 yards. Green received the ball after a corner kick was deflected high into the air and back away from the goal near the top of the 18-yard box. Green connected flush on the ball with her foot and sent it whizzing past Larson into the back of the net.
One minute later, Sanchez etched her name on the scoresheet with a goal from close range that cut Snohomish’s lead to 2-1. But the Panthers held on down the stretch thanks in large part to the defensive efforts of back line members Delaney Kaysner, Leena Dicken, Cali Rossall and Jenna Schuler, as well as Wales, who made a tremendous save on a shot from less than 10 yards out off the foot of Myranda Schlosser in the 73rd minute.
“I give so much credit to my defense tonight,” VanAssche said. “My goalkeeper, my defensive players—they played like a team tonight and had each others’ backs. We knew we’d have our hands full with Stanwood’s offense, and I could not be more proud of them.”