All season long, the Gig Harbor High School girls soccer team has featured the offensive prowess of both junior forward Alyssa Gray and freshman forward Lily Paulson and a formidable back line.
On Saturday at South Sound Stadium in the Class 3A West Central/Southwest bi-district championship game against Prairie High School, both of those factors came into play as the Tides improved their record to 19-0 on the season. Goals by Gray in the seventh minute and Paulson in the 16th minute powered the Tides’ to a fast start en route to a 3-0 victory over the Falcons.
With the win, the Tides will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class 3A State Tournament.
“I saw Lily coming across — which was amazing from her — and I saw the ball go up, and we just wanted to get a goal in quickly,” Gray said about her opening score. “I was not about to give up. I was going to finish it no matter what it took.”
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“It was extremely important (to score early) — we want to keep the momentum going. We don’t want to slow up.”
And there was no slowing up as Paulson added on to the Tides’ lead just 11 minutes later to make it 2-0. It’s only fitting that each assisted the other on both of the goals.
The talent of Gray is no secret — the junior is committed to play soccer at Washington State University and tallied 24 goals and nine assists in the regular season. But Paulson, in just her first year at the high school level, has also been spectacular in her own right. Paulson finished the regular season with 19 goals and eight assists.
“I feel like a lot of it is the players around me,” Gray said about her success as a freshman. “They’ve all been really supportive, and really encouraging on and off the field. I think that really helps to make me the best I can be with the encouragement they give me.”
Putting the cherry on top for the Tides was senior midfielder Anna Stewart, who scored in the 58th minute.
But as well as the Tides’ attack played, the defensive effort was just as impressive. Besides blanking the Falcons’ offense, the Tides barely allowed their opponents onto their half of the pitch and dominated the possession of the ball.
“Our communication, we talk a lot back there,” said senior defender Grace Neil when asked about their ability to stifle opposing offenses. “We’ve been working on dropping and stepping, knowing when they’re going to play the long balls in.”
“I would definitely say we have a lot of cohesion between the back line. I play with a few of the girls on a select team, so it’s good to transfer that over onto the high school field and play with them.”
With the completion of the West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament, that now means the Tides have outscored opponents by a margin of 91-5 on the season.
For Tides head coach Stephanie Cox, the team’s success comes down to a few main points.
“I just think the depth we have and leadership,” Cox said. “We have 11 seniors in the program, and they do a great job of leading. The variety in our attack — so many players are relentless. And our defending as well.”
Logan Stanley: 360-754-5433, @LSscribe