On Tuesday evening at Bellarmine’s Memorial Field, Gig Harbor was on its heels from the moment the game started. Bellarmine played the role of the aggressor, relentlessly attacking the Tides defense throughout the game. The Lions came out on top, 3-1, denying Gig Harbor the Narrows 4A title. Bellarmine scored two of its goal in the first half and went into the break with a 2-0 lead.
"It was a ball-watching game," Gig Harbor coach Todd Northstrom said. "We know exactly what they do offensively. But we watched the ball and we got caught. And then what hurt us the most, we got the ball beat over the top, the defenders regrouped, but in the midfield, we just stood and watched. They were able to play the ball on without anybody running on them. That’s not being mentally ready for the game."
In the first half, the soccer ball bounced around the box in every direction. But it had a tendency to land at Bellarmine junior Robert Nurmi’s feet, once it stopped rolling around. Nurmi scored twice, both on rebound efforts. The Lions also earned the season sweep against their rivals across the bridge.
"It’s a team effort, everyone just sticking with the plays," Nurmi said. "It was a great matchup. It’s always a good game with Gig Harbor. It definitely feels great to get the win."
Bellarmine coach Joe Waters was pleased with how his Lions executed the gameplan.
"I thought our guys were absolutely fantastic, all over the field," Waters said. "We settled into to what we wanted to do and we took them completely out of their game. I just thought our guys up front especially caused havoc for them. They couldn’t handle our pace and our ability to get a touch on the ball and redirect it for guys that were prepared to run onto it. We really worked hard today. They got the reward for it."
Northstrom said the Tides simply weren’t ready to play at a high enough level to win the game on the road.
"I think the mentality the kids had coming into the game — they were excited to play — but they thought, ‘There’s no way Bellarmine’s going to beat us twice in one year, so we’re just going to go in and win,’ and they thought it’s just going to happen. They didn’t realize that it’s not happening that way. This is a good team over there. They’re going to come out and fight. They want to win the league."
While Gig Harbor (11-2-1, 8-2-1) earned the sweep over Bellarmine last season, it was the Lions who had the Tides’ number this year.
"It’s a great rivalry," Waters said. "They have a great tradition, a great coach and great players. These are the games — (Gig Harbor coach) Todd (Northstrom) and I were talking about it before the game — these are the games that prepare us for the playoffs. The three teams coming out of this league are going to be tough teams."
While Gig Harbor came out with better intensity in the second half — getting an Edwin Brown goal in the 59th minute — the Tides were in too big of a hole to crawl out of. But the Tides controlled possession and generated scoring chances much more effectively than in the first half, and Northstrom was pleased the team continued to battle after going down 3-0 early in the second half.
"They didn’t give up," Northstrom said. "We made it dangerous. The effort to start the game — against a team of this caliber — we’re going to get bounced quickly in the playoffs if we do that."
If both Gig Harbor and Bellarmine win out, Bellarmine will win the league due to the tie-breaker advantage.