Gateway: Sports

5 observations from Gig Harbor soccer’s state championship season

Gig Harbor players celebrate after a 2-1 overtime win against Kamiakin to advance to the 3A state championship game. Gig Harbor’s Jaylynn Barton (17) scored the game winning goal with a header. Gig Harbor played Kamiakin in a soccer match at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, Wash., on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.
Gig Harbor players celebrate after a 2-1 overtime win against Kamiakin to advance to the 3A state championship game. Gig Harbor’s Jaylynn Barton (17) scored the game winning goal with a header. Gig Harbor played Kamiakin in a soccer match at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, Wash., on Friday, Nov. 16, 2018. joshua.bessex@gateline.com

With its 2-1 win over Holy Names last Saturday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup, the Gig Harbor High School girls soccer team captured the Class 3A state title, capping off a historically successful season. Here are a few observations from Gig Harbor’s most dominant season ever.

It’s always fun to be first

With the win over the Cougars, the 2018 Tides became the first soccer team in the program’s history to win a state title. It’s almost hard to believe, given how successful the Gig Harbor has been over the years.

Looking back in the record books, there’s been a fair share of heartbreak over the years for the Tides, with four runner-up finishes. The Tides lost in the 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996 championship games.

Clearly, the Tides were loaded in the early to mid-1990s, but even those teams couldn’t break through, showing just how difficult it is to win a state championship. Winning a state title stands on its own as an impressive accomplishment, but winning the program’s first makes it even sweeter.

It ain’t over till it’s over

Gig Harbor’s road to its eventual state title was far from easy. In the state quarterfinals against Edmonds-Woodway, Gig Harbor trailed 2-1 before Jaylynn Barton equalized in the 78th minute, just two minutes before time expired. Gig Harbor went on to win that game in penalty kicks. Then in the semifinals, Gig Harbor again trailed late, down 1-0 against Kamiakin, before equalizing with a Kamiakin own-goal in the 77th minute. The Tides went on to win the game, 2-1 in overtime.

Then, again, in the championship game, Gig Harbor had to come from behind after conceding the game’s opening goal to Holy Names’ Julia Causbie in the 22nd minute. Goals from Alyssa Gray in the 59th minute and Ashley Wright in the 76th minute secured the win for the Tides.

It takes a certain toughness and mental fortitude to play from behind in soccer, given how long it can take to find a goal, no matter the numbers thrown forward in the attack. This group certainly had that gritty mentality in spades.

Alyssa Gray is the real deal

The Washington State committed junior forward just kept scoring goals all season long. Gray finished the season with 36 goals — 12 of which came in postseason play — capping off a stellar season. Her game-tying goal in the 59th minute of the state championship game was pivotal. Not only did it level Gig Harbor, it also changed the momentum and complexion of the game, giving Gig Harbor’s exhausted players a second wind.

“It was just something I was working the whole game for,” Gray said after the game. “I’m not going to give up. I figured I was already injured, so I was just going to keep pushing. I’m just happy there were people around me to support me. ... I’m never going to forget that goal. I’m never going to forget this team, ever.”

We’ll see how Gig Harbor goes about replacing the production of its talented and cohesive senior class, but with Gray’s return for one more high school season, Gig Harbor coach Stephanie Cox shouldn’t have to worry about the team’s ability to score goals.

Faith in freshmen

For a team this deep and talented, it’s hard to believe that three freshmen were able to make such a significant impact. Forward Lily Paulson was one of the team’s best players, finishing as the team’s second-leading goal scorer, behind Gray. Forward Ashley Wright was also a crucial part of the attack and scored the game-winning goal in the state championship game.

Defender Ella Hatteberg played beyond her years, showing composure on the back line, especially in the postseason. When senior defensive midfielder Hannah Carroll went down with an injury in the opening round of the state tournament, Jaylynn Barton was moved into her spot, pushing Hatteberg into a starting role at right back. All three freshman were critical to the team’s success not only during the season, but in the postseason, as well.

It’s not easy being perfect

And that’s exactly what the Tides were at 23-0. No ties. No losses. Beyond winning the state championship, Gig Harbor’s consistency may be the most impressive accomplishment of all. Even the best teams generally have an off game from time to time during the course of a season, but Gig Harbor never lapsed.

Gig Harbor outscored opponents 102-11 this season (plus-92 differential). There will be other great Gig Harbor teams in the years to come, but it’s going to be hard to top the 2018 season.

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