SUMNER, Wash. – There’s no real measuring stick on exactly how long it should take for a new high school sports program to become successful.
But by all accounts, the St. George’s girls soccer team is significantly ahead of schedule.
Three years ago, the Dragons didn’t even field a team. Now they will play for a state title.
Kaitlyn Vera and Mary Neder each scored goals, the St. George’s defense was its usual stingy self and the Dragons defeated Liberty Bell 2-0 in the State 2B/1B semifinals at Sunset Chev Stadium on Friday.
“I’m standing here over on the sidelines wondering if this is even real,” St. George’s coach Mark Rickard said. “We’re really young. It’s really hard for me to grasp what this team has accomplished this year. It’s unbelievable.”
The Dragons (16-2) will look to continue their breakthrough season in the state finals when they face Kalama (15-5) at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Chinooks secured their place in the championship match by defeating Adna 1-0 (3-1 shootout) in the other semifinal. Kalama found a way to win despite being outshot 16-1 against the Pirates, who held a lopsided 10-0 advantage in corner kicks.
“Kalama has two really great defenders and I think they played a lot of bend-but-don’t-break against Adna and it worked out for them,” Rickard said. “I feel really good about tomorrow.”
Vera, a freshman, opened the scoring, punching in a rebound off a Liberty Bell defender in the 11th minute.
“It was really key,” Rickard said about his team striking fast to take an early advantage. “I had to laugh. Kaitlyn, leading up to this game, kept telling me how she didn’t have a right foot. She’s all left-footed and sure enough, she scores tonight with the right foot.”
Fellow freshman Lydia Bergquist assisted on Vera’s goal.
It proved to be all the offense the Dragons needed as keeper Cate Caporicci notched the team’s ninth shutout.
Neder added an insurance goal in the 47th minute on a penalty kick.
The Mountain Lions (15-3-3) mustered just two shots with one on goal.
“This program is really blessed with just a great group of girls. They are very coachable, fun, high energy, high intensity and we’re also fortunate enough to have a group with a lot of soccer experience,” Rickard said. “They’re skilled and they’re smart. You can see, out on the field, we really work together well and it’s just coming together at the right time.”
Boys: St. George’s 2, Prescott 1
Cade Peplinski’s goal in the 60th minute lifted the Dragons over the Tigers in the State 2B/1B semifinals.
The win sends St. George’s (13-6-1) back to the state finals for a second consecutive year. The Dragons will face Crosspoint (19-1) in Saturday’s title match at 4 p.m.
The Warriors advanced to the finals with a 1-0 win over Tacoma Baptist, the team St. George’s defeated 2-0 to capture last year’s state championship.
Dragons captain Mitchell Ward broke the scoreless tie with his goal in the 24th minute after intercepting a Prescott pass to the keeper and punching it in from 15 yards out. It was Ward’s team-high 32nd goal this season.
The Tigers found the equalizer 5 minutes later on a Jose Gonzalez goal.
It marks the sixth time in program history the Dragons will play for a state title. In addition to last year’s crown, St. George’s won the 1A title in 1999 and finished as the state runner-up three times.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.