Despite overtime and four goals from senior striker Kaylen Pray, the East Jefferson Rivals girls soccer team had to settle for a draw in their home opener matchup last Tuesday against Vashon Island …
Despite overtime and four goals from senior striker Kaylen Pray, the East Jefferson Rivals girls soccer team had to settle for a draw in their home opener matchup last Tuesday against Vashon Island High School.
While the tie felt bittersweet for the Rivals, who went up 2-0 over the Pirates at one point, the squad was satisfied to take a draw against the team that eliminated them for the Nisqually League playoffs last year.
“Overall, [I’m] happy because Vashon’s a strong team … pretty happy other than needing to defend the lead a little better,” said EJ Head Coach Robert Cantley.
“We played them three times last season and lost to them three times. Two of those games were by one goal; I feel like we’ve closed the gap on them.”
Returning to Memorial Athletic Field with a new team and new uniforms, it didn’t take long for EJ to pressure Vashon Island after the opening whistle.
Pray, forward Ava Shiflett, and midfielder Iris Mattern were in sync from the start, slicing and dicing the Pirates’ defense with potent passing and breakaway speed.
After earning a handful of fast breaks, the Rivals capitalized with 25 minutes left in the opening half. Pray pierced through the Pirates back line at breakneck speed, battled defenders for the loose ball, then slid a cool shot past the opposing keeper to put EJ up 1-0.
On the offensive end, the Rivals were firing on all cylinders as Shiflett’s creative passing provided open space for Pray, while Mattern anchored the midfield. Defensively, EJ held steady, but the occasional counter attack left opportunities for the Pirates to equalize.
Vashon’s first major scoring chance came with 15 minutes remaining. A header from a corner kick left a loose ball for the Pirates to collect and shoot, but the Rivals’ freshman keeper, Tayla Davis, deflected the shot to keep her squad ahead.
Pray had another fast break chance on net, but this time her shot was wide right as the scoreboard showed 8 minutes remaining until half. The two squads continued to battle as halftime commenced.
Returning to the field with vigor, freshman defender Sienna Emerson darted a quick pass to Mattern, who fed the ball to Pray on the right. Using her pace, Pray dribbled around the keeper before cutting a precise shot into the net and putting EJ up 2-0 with 33 minutes left in the game.
Just as the Rivals started to command the momentum, the Pirates were awarded a penalty shot minutes later.
Vashon took full advantage as the striker booted a power shot past Davis’ outstretched gloves and brought the score to 2-1.
The Rivals responded quickly, with Shiflett and Mattern linking up once again in the midfield.
Mattern laced a pinpoint pass to midfielder Rennie O’Donnell, who ripped a powerful shot across the field, but the Pirate keeper was there to make the save.
Momentum began to shift as Vashon found space in the backfield.
The Pirates earned a counter attack with 22 minutes remaining, outnumbering EJ on the attack for a prime chance. Sophomore Kay Botkin put in a great effort to delay the advancement, but it wasn’t enough as the Pirates scored on a low shot with 20 minutes left.
The score was even, but not for long as Pray scored the hat trick goal from a through ball up the middle, which she collected and aimed into Vashon’s net minutes after the equalizer.
Three wasn’t enough for Pray though as the senior striker rocketed a powerful shot over the keeper to get goal number four. The Rivals were up 4-2 with 12 minutes to go.
Coming back from the dead, the Pirates took advantage of EJ’s young back line to score again and make it 4-3.
Then, the Pirates returned for more, this time booting a power shot past Davis and off the right post to even the score.
After 10 minutes of play and two decent chances from Shiflett and Pray, the whistle blew, but neither team was ready to give up. The squads played on with two 5-minute halves to declare a winner.
While both teams gave it their all, the 10 extra minutes ticked past and the two teams settled on a 4-4 stalemate.
Though EJ didn’t get the three points, the silver lining was Pray’s marvelous four-goal performance on the night.
“Four goals in a game, that’s pretty good compared to last season, so I’m excited to help this new team get used to each other and know the field better,” Pray said after the game. “Once I scored the first one, the adrenaline kicked up and everything after that was pretty awesome.”
“We have some new faces, but I’m excited to see how we grow this season,” she said of her team.
“I’m not surprised; she’s got a lot of speed, she’s a smart player, and she knows how to get into the space,” Cantley said of Pray’s four-goal game. “These girls, they’ve been playing together for a long time, so they’re used to knowing where she’s going to make the run and when to look for her.”
On his outlook for this year’s team, Cantley said: “We’re expecting to be better than we were last year. We have a really good senior squad and our junior class is really solid too.”
“We feel like having played Vashon tonight, they weren’t as strong as they were last year. And we’re playing Bellevue Christian on Thursday, so we’ll get a measure of them, but I feel like we can do better than we did last year. And that’s our aim,” he added.
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