For the first time since 2012, the Mercer Island girls soccer team is going to the 3A state tournament.
Getting second-half goals from Kendall Riley and Nalani Ogawa, the Islanders defeated the Mt. Spokane Wildcats 2-0 in their winner-to-state matchup Saturday at Islander Stadium.
A downpour of rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the players and coaches along the Mercer Island sideline. Islander coach Ryan Camden called the victory “a collective effort” by his team to get the win.
“We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We want to stay in the present, [focus on] one game at a time every time and they did that. They stayed in the present and we weren’t looking ahead at any moment,” Camden said. “They did their job. We had a great second half today and everybody stepped up.”
Mercer Island (12-6-2) had its opportunities in the first half with four shots and three corner opportunities but was unable to finish through the first 40 minutes of play.
After the half, Riley put the Islanders on the board in the 47th minute, scoring off a free kick by Ogawa that was from 20 yards out on the right side of the field. Riley received the pass just inside the left corner of the box to put the ball away.
“I saw there was open space in the back of the field and I could basically stand right next to the goalie,” Riley said. “I just saw the ball come in and it just went in.”
In the 63rd minute, it was Ogawa’s turn. Stepping up again for another free kick from the right side, this time from 35 yards out, Ogawa’s lefty kick sailed into the right corner of the net to give the Islanders their 2-0 advantage.
“I was just trying to get it in a spot where my teammates could head it in or flick it in,” she said. “I just needed to put pace on it so that if it didn’t go in, my teammates could put it in the goal, but it [went in].”
Defensively, the Islanders limited Mt. Spokane (7-11-0) to four shots on goal in the contest, with Mercer Island keeper Bella Johnson recording four saves in the shutout.
“Our defense did a fabulous job. They’re very disciplined,” Camden said. “That’s another thing we told players before the game, ‘You’ve just gotta be very, very disciplined right now,’ and they did a great job.”
With a state tournament berth secured, the Islanders achieved a goal that was set before the season began. But Camden stressed Saturday afternoon that his team wasn’t done.
“It feels great, it’s exciting but at the same time, the girls know it’s not a surprise because day one at training camp, we talked postseason,” he said. “It’s part of the plan and we’re gonna keep moving forward.”