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Gig Harbor sophomore Gray’s goal seals 1-0 win over rival Peninsula

Gig Harbor's Anna Stewart fends off a Peninsula defender on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Roy Anderson Field. Gig Harbor won, 1-0.
Gig Harbor's Anna Stewart fends off a Peninsula defender on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at Roy Anderson Field. Gig Harbor won, 1-0. Staff writer

Sophomore Alyssa Gray scored the game’s lone goal against Peninsula on Tuesday night at Roy Anderson Field to give the Tides the 1-0 win over their crosstown rival and extend Gig Harbor’s winning streak to four games.

Not only have the Tides won four games in a row, they’ve also recorded clean sheets in every one of those games. That’s a credit to Gig Harbor’s back line, which held the Seahawks in check.

“They key for us tonight was just winning it in the air, staying tight and playing our defensive game that we know how to play,” said junior center back Grace Neil. “Just staying strong and not letting them get it over us. They have some speedy forwards. So just keeping it tight was the goal tonight. We feel connected. Communication is really key for us.”

Gray’s goal came in the 38th minute, just before halftime, when a teammate’s cross sailed over the Peninsula defender’s head and right to Gray’s feet. She didn’t want to make a mistake with the chance.

“I just saw it coming and thought, ‘If I don’t score, it’s going be a yelling match,’” Gray said, with a laugh.

Gig Harbor coach Stephanie Cox was pleased with her team’s energy and effort in the rivalry game.

“It’s really fun because it’s a competitive game,” Cox said. “They get up for it, they’re really excited for the rivalry. I think they also knew it wasn’t their best game. So we’re a little disappointed with that. But I was proud of the focus they had to keep a shutout and limit the quality chances that Peninsula had.”

Gig Harbor (4-1 overall, 3-0 South Sound 3A) was held to just one goal, after scoring 14 in its first four games of the season. The credit for the lack of goal production goes to Peninsula (2-1, 2-1), which disrupted Gig Harbor’s flow and applied pressure throughout the game.

“They have some really good soccer players, they’re very athletic,” Cox said of the opposition. “The pressure they put us under, it was hard to find a good rhythm. We couldn’t quite solve it in the midfield and that was because Peninsula just did a good job.”

The gap between the two programs, which was evident in years past, has closed. That much was clear on Tuesday evening.

“I think it’s because we know that we can do it,” said Peninsula senior defender Aoife Duffy. “This is our school, our team, our year. I think we grew a lot of confidence from last year. We know we can do it, we know we can take them on.”

Duffy said she’s already excited for the rematch with the Tides on Oct. 12, also at Roy Anderson Field.

“I think next time we play them, I think we just need to work on getting the ball a little quicker,” Duffy said. “We were a little scared they’d beat us, we thought that they’re a little faster than us. But I think we just need to mark tight and not let them get to the ball first. I think we’ll do a lot better next time.”

Duffy said the team’s confidence is still high, despite the loss.

“I think we’re just going to keep taking it to all these teams,” she said. “Gig Harbor — we want to beat them. It hits home. We just know we’re a threat and we’re legit this year. I think we’ll do well going forward.”

Neil said playing in front of a large section of fans and students added an extra layer of fun to the game.

“(Peninsula) put up a big fight,” Neil said. “It was really intense. We’re one big community so it’s always fun to play each other. It’s fun playing in front of all these fans. We don’t get a lot of fans out here usually, being girls soccer. So it was really awesome.”

Gig Harbor’s players and coaches expect the team to continue growing and improving over the course of the season.

“We’re playing with a lot of heart right now,” Neil said. “Just knowing that every game will be a challenge. We’re still a newer team, learning how to play with each other a bit. I think we’ve had two intense games that have come up and have pushed us.”

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