Soccer heads to state

MOUNT VERNON—For the past two weeks, Gretchen Hanson emphasized the importance of penalty kicks by having every single Oak Harbor soccer player stay after practice for a little extra work.

“Every day after practice they had to make two in a row before they left,” Hanson said.

Those extra hours of work paid big dividends on Friday night. The Wildcats used penalty kicks in a sudden death shootout, claiming a 2-1 victory over Snohomish and the second and final WesCo berth to the state tournament.

“Every single practice we had to stay after and do PK’s and it paid off, it paid off big time,” senior Jenny White said.

It only took three shots for Oak Harbor to put the game away. Senior Kaylea Kingma, senior Tina Nicolas and junior Katie Schoeffling calmly placed nearly identical shots high and to the right of Snohomish keeper Grace Lee.

The Panthers on the other hand, struggled to find the back of the net. With senior Devon Shulock defending the goal, Snohomish missed on three straight shots: one wide right, one off the left post and one through the uprights behind the goal.

“I guess they thought I looked scary or something,” Shulock said.

When Schoeffling’s shot sailed into the net, it was cause for serious celebration from the Oak Harbor sideline. For the previous three years, the Wildcats had been knocked out of the district playoffs in the second round, coming up just shy of a state berth. With eight seniors on this year’s team, getting over that final hump was a huge relief.

“It feels really cool,” Shulock said. “It’s been three years and it’s our last year, so it’s a good feeling.”

White shared in her teammate’s elation.

“We wanted to win so bad,” she said. “A lot of games have come down to shootouts, but we never won them. Since we’ve all played together, we’ve all been through it. We’re just so excited to actually finish the season going to state.”

Senior Gretyl Pruss helped Oak Harbor to the initial lead in the 11th minute of the contest. Receiving a nicely placed pass from White on a 25-yard penalty kick, Pruss headed the ball into the net for a 1-0 advantage.

The Wildcat defense kept the Panthers away from their goal in the first half, only allowing one shot on goal.

Snohomish came out a more determined team in the second half, applying constant pressure to the Oak Harbor defense. That pressure eventually paid off in the 54th minute when Brittney Marshall received an opportunistic goal. Taking a throw-in into the middle of the goalbox, Marshall took a bouncing ball in a crowd of players and used her knee to tap it in.

The 1-1 score held through the end of regulation and two five-minute overtimes, before the Cats eventually won the shootout.

Oak Harbor travels to face Puyallup for a first-round state contest at 7 p.m., today, Nov. 12 at Sparks Stadium.

A win will mean a potential second-round matchup at either Redmond or Kentlake on Saturday.

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