A young and depleted Mercer Island girls soccer team was no match for the Issaquah Eagles (3-0-2) in a 6-0 road loss on Thursday, Sept. 19.
Going into the match, the Islanders (2-2-0) were without their starting midfield, including junior co-captain Emily Yang and junior Makena French.
“They’re all injured,” head coach James Valles said. “We’re throwing in some players that are young or maybe don’t even play that position.”
The Eagles opened the scoring in the 19th minute when Issaquah forward Niah Dang put the ball into the open net after Islanders goalkeeper Amy Braman came out to try and play the ball.
In the 34th minute, Issaquah doubled their lead when forward Amilia Esterhuizen headed the ball into the net after Claire Tylutki put a cross into the box. All night, Tylutki used her speed to create chances for the Eagles. Mercer Island defender Lilly Pruchno was tasked with marking Tyluki. Valles said Pruchno did a good job, especially considering she did it without a substitution due to the Islanders having a short bench.
In the second half, the Eagles created more space, opening the game up in the midfield. Valles said his players got tired and a skilled Issaquah team took advantage.
“Our midfielders ran out of gas,” Valles said. “That’s not where they usually play, so there was a little bit of confusion out there. You just create a pocket of space and they have good shooters. They made us pay.”
With space opening up in the midfield, the Eagles got shots on goal from distance to test Braman. Issaquah scored three goals in a span of about 10 minutes midway through the second half to take a 5-0 lead.
Issaquah would add one more goal when midfielder Kira Terao curled a shot past Braman to finish off the Islanders 6-0. Despite the lopsided scoreline, Valles said without Braman, the score could have been a lot worse.
For Valles’ squad, the loss served as an eye-opener for some of the younger players.
“We’re a young team,” Valles said. “So playing against an opponent like this is sometimes a bit of a shock (because of) the speed. They learned you really have to do your work before you get the ball, because you don’t have time. If you’re not winning, you’re learning.”
As they continue through their non-conference schedule, the Islanders will look to get healthier. Valles said he expects the injured players to come back with plenty of motivation after watching a loss like this.
“I think there is a real hunger for our injured players to get back,” Valles said. “Sometimes when you’re sitting there and you can’t play, I think you learn a lot about what you see out there. There will be a little fire in the midfield when they get back.”
While nobody wants to see their team lose in such fashion, playing a challenging non-conference schedule is an opportunity to be challenged.
“We’re not running into a cupcake (game) that we can win by three or four and not learn anything,” Valles said. “I’d rather take a loss like this. A little humility isn’t bad.”