A fortuitous confluence of circumstances on Saturday propelled the Gonzaga Prep girls soccer team to the State 4A semifinals next Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Second-year coach Billy Barmes set the foundation and senior Larkin Russell, returning to the Bullpups for the first time since she was a freshman, provided the offense in their 2-0 quarterfinal triumph over visiting Bellarmine Prep.
It is the second Final Four appearance for the Bullpups, the last coming a decade ago.
The match was a defensive stalemate for most of the first half before Russell’s lightning strike goal broke the 0-0 deadlock with four minutes remaining before halftime.
Prep’s attack had faltered after mounting a promising attack, but Russell got the ball back and rocketed a shot into the net from 30 yards out.
In the second half, Gonzaga’s defense of several Lions offensive forays kept the visitors at bay, including a brilliant stop in traffic by goalkeeper Zoe Beleneus.
Midway through the second half, Russell’s nifty footwork resulted in a breakaway goal – another booming line drive again from about 30 yards.
“I saw the opening and I just took it around,” Russell said of her goals. “I knew we needed to score and that if I could do that we could make it to the Final Four.”
Russell had deferred from playing with Prep her sophomore and junior seasons to concentrate on club play with a team in Colorado. But she came back for her senior season and provided an offensive boost, scoring 12 goals, including the two against Bellarmine.
“I spent a lot of time traveling so I didn’t think it was fair to the other girls on the team to take playing time when I knew I couldn’t make a 100-percent commitment to this team,” she explained.
It was the Bullpups’ 16th straight victory after a rocky 1-3 start. They’ve allowed one goal in six playoff games and were victorious in four shootouts.
It was defense that got them there, said Barmes, who had charged his team from the beginning that hard work would produce results.
“What we’re doing all over the field from front to back is a concerted defensive effort,” he said. “Our back line is playing spectacularly and now we’re finding ways to score goals.
“Obviously, Larkin today had a couple of special moments, but that’s what I expect from her.”
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