Fear was not an option.
If the piece of scripture Life Christian Academy girls soccer coach Chris Anderson chose to read before the state championship did not spell it out, then it was the play, and what proved to be the game-winning goal, from sophomore Tyler Taff that made it clear.
In the 21st minute, Taff was on the receiving end of a perfect left-side cross from sophomore Landyn Lovelady that gave her a one-on-one with St. George’s goalkeeper, Cate Caporicci.
Taff chipped the ball over the top of the Dragon’s goalkeeper for the goal. Taff’s decision to remain confident, and not give in the to the fear of the moment, secured Life Christian Academy’s 1-0 win over St. George’s on Saturday in the 2017 1B/2B state championship game at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.
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The win gave Life Christian Academy the first girls soccer state championship in school history.
“I’m really proud of everyone,” Taff said. “I feel like we deserved this. We worked hard for it. We all put in inside effort and outside effort. It took a lot out of us, but I know we earned our spot.”
In the days leading up to Life Christian Academy’s (15-4) state title match against St. George’s, the defending state champion, Eagles coach Chris Anderson thought long and hard about what he would say to his team before it took the pitch. He settled on 2 Timothy 1:7.
The message all regular season has been to play with confidence. But this match was different. This was uncharted territory.
Anderson knew he needed something else.
“We were not given a spirit of fear,” Anderson said. “We were given one of power and a sound mind. And they really came out with the confidence that was intended by that particular piece of scripture.”
St. George’s opened the match with two quality shots, forcing Eagles’ goalkeeper Abby Pierson to come off her line and make two tough saves.
St. George’s success through the first 15 minutes came through their attack. By pushing their numbers forward, they forced Life Christian Academy on their heels, and routinely made it break its’ 4-4-2 formation.
“They didn’t make anything easy,” Anderson said. “That’s what makes a great state champion. But we did a great job of staying in it and remaining focused.”
Life Christian Academy slowly built its attack leading up to the Taff goal. Its first shot on goal came in the eighth minute when senior captain Naytalia Chapman was able to get a touch on a 50-50 ball just inside the Dragon’s box, but Caporicci made the save.
It was that shot that forced the Eagles’ light bulb to come on.
“This weekend has been about two things for us,” Life Christian senior captain Grace Pierson said. “The first was no fear and no regrets. And, today, coach talked about playing with a sound mind and confidence. And it was during that first 20 minutes that it really started to take life.”
In the 21st minute, Lovelady won a 50-50 ball near midfield. She dribbled to the 25-yard line, but instead of taking a long-range shot, she sent a cross to Taff.
Taff took two dribbles before lofting the chip shot over Caporicci’s head and into the back of the net.
“Landyn’s cross couldn’t have been more perfect,” Taff said. “I couldn’t do anything; their keeper wasn’t giving me much room, so I just had to chip it over her and into the top corner.”
Life Christian Academy’s back line shut down one St. George’s attack after another in the second half, and Eagles goalkeeper Abby Pierson continued to shine.
After two critical saves to open the match, Pierson had two more saves, coming off her line each time, in the second half to earn her first clean-sheet win since Oct. 11.
The best chance St. George’s had to draw the match was in the 65th minute when Lydia Bergquist fired a shot that struck the crossbar.
“I am so proud of my sister,” Grace Pierson said. “She came out on so many balls, and made so many tough decisions. It’s bittersweet to be on the field with her in my final game here.”
When the season started, Anderson made two things very clear to his team.
The first was that fear and a lack of confidence would not be tolerated. The other, was that if this Eagles team worked as hard as they could each day, he was confident that they would not only make it to state, but they would also place at state.
“I’m so proud of them,” Anderson said. “They really did work their butt off to get here. I told them if they put the work in, good things will happen. They came out with the confidence they needed, and it was cool that everyone got to watch that unfold, and now they are state champions because of it.”