Oak Harbor soccer stops Lake Stevens

The Oak Harbor girls soccer team charged onto the decked-out-for-homecoming Memorial Stadium field ready for action against Lake Stevens Thursday night. In the 3-1 win over the visiting Vikings, Oak Harbor struck fast and early, and had the defense to back up the offensive hit.

The first Wildcat goal came with 31 minutes on the clock when junior Jenny White scored off a Gretyl Pruss pass. Only three minutes later Amanda Watts was given a pass through the middle that she finished off with a slide tackle to put the ball in the back of the net for the 2-0 lead.

Devon Shulock was in charge of the Oak Harbor goal for the first half, and around the 22 minute mark Lake Stevens put pressure on the junior keeper. The Vikings made runs at the goal, but Shulock covered them all with agile foot play and came out of her six-yard box to claim the ball as hers.

Both sides were aggressive, with hard knocks and slide tackles coming from both sides.

A Tina Nicolas shot at nine minutes surely made the Lake Stevens keeper’s hands numb when she knocked it just outside the goal. On the follow-up corner Gretyl Pruss had a shot attempt that went just over.

All night long Jenny White showed her speed and ability to read the drop, look for the pass up the field, or use her wheels to hot foot it upfield so she could be there for the run on goal. At six minutes left in the half White made a shot on goal attempt after dropping the ball back, and the pass forward sailed just up the line after tapping White on the back to stay within the field perimeter.

Kaylea Kingma got her foot into things with a shot on goal at four minutes left; on the resulting corner kick, White and Kari Watts had shot on goal attempts. It was the Lake Stevens goalkeeper’s turn to be schooled in the fine art of six-yard box pressure.

Oak Harbor remained in Lake Stevens’ territory and with less than two left in the first half, Gretyl Pruss had a shot on goal, and Stephanie Black was right there to remind the keeper the half wasn’t over.

Searching for any attempt at a goal, Lakes Stevens’ Allyce VanHooser attempted a shot from 40 yards out, but the ball sailed straight into Shulock’s hands.

All evening, the Oak Harbor middle held strong. The ball ventured into Wildcat territory on a limited basis, and everyone came back to help clear any danger. When talking defense, Oak Harbor head coach Gretchen Hanson attributes the well-done job to the whole team. “All across the field we had great play,” she said.

Defenders Kaylea Kingma, and forward Tina Nicolas, who often came back to help with the defensive pressure on the Vikings, were among the mentionables by Hanson.

At the half, Hanson had a message for her happy Cats.

“I don’t care if the game is 10-0, keep looking for goals,” Hanson said. After the game Hanson explained, “It was the first time I really saw a connection in those girls. I don’t like to come out and kill teams, but I also want my girls to know what it feels like to be on top of their game.”

Just two minutes into the second half, Lake Stevens made the first attempt at a goal but the attempt was high and wide.

Oak Harbor struck right back with a Jenny White shot on the Lake Stevens goal at 35 minutes. And like a yo-yo match on grass, Lake Stevens followed with a charge at Oak Harbor’s second half goalkeeper, Sheena Paddock. Yanking the string back, the Cats brought the ball up and White made a shot on goal attempt at 30 minutes.

Lake Stevens was given a penalty kick in the Oak Harbor 18-yard box at 28 minutes, but the Oak Harbor defense swallowed it up and rushed the ball through the midfield and up into the Lake Stevens half. Abby Pruss took her turn with a shot on goal, but the attempt was just over the cross bar.

For the first time in the game, Oak Harbor’s core strength it had shown all night began to break down. While unable to keep the Vikings out of their half, the Wildcats worked to contain the unwanted visitors from crashing their victory party.

At nine minutes left in the game, Wildcat goalkeeper Paddock made a stretching dive for the ball to make the save.

“Sheena played an awesome game, she really came off her line,” Hanson said of her second half keeper.

Off a run seen by Oak Harbor as being off-sides, but not by the referee, Lake Stevens broke into the Oak Harbor 18-yard box at five minutes and scored their first and only goal of the evening.

“It was off-sides, all night my girls worked hard, and in my eyes this was a shut out game,” Hanson said.

The last two minutes of the game, which are kept on the field by the center ref, were filled with aggressive scrambles by both ends in an attempt to get a goal. Oak Harbor kept Lake Stevens from gaining any ground, and finished the game on top 3-1.

“Defense won this game,” Hanson said. “They were winning balls in the air, really supporting in the back.” For the girls in back, Hanson has a gem they should remember: “Defense wins championships, offense wins games.”

Lake Stevens is currently in sixth place in Wesco North. They are the only team that has beaten the two ahead of Oak Harbor, number one Snohomish and number two Cascade, this year.

“This team beat Cascade and Snohomish, and we really put it to them,” Hanson said of Lake Stevens.

With that in mind, the Oak Harbor Wildcats will face Cascade Oct. 22 on their home grass, as they hope to shake up the top three in the Wesco North.

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