Wolves lose state playoff game, then their coach

Just two days after the South Kitsap girls soccer team was bounced from the state playoffs, Eric Bergeson tendered his resignation as head coach effective immediately.

The Wolves, making their fifth-straight post-season appearance, lost 2-1 to Jackson High in the first round of Class 4A state playoffs Tuesday night in Everett. Bergeson, who coached the team the last four years, tendered in his resignation Thursday in a letter to Athletic Director Ed Santos.

South Kitsap did not hold classes Friday in observance of Veterans Day and neither Santos nor Bergeson could be reached for comment. Bergeson did send out an email Thursday informing the press that he had resigned and senior captain Erin Carpenter confirmed Thursday that Bergeson had informed the team of his decision.

Bergeson will remain the head coach of the boy’s team, a position he has held for the last nine seasons.

His girls teams complied a 54-12-12 mark on his watch, qualifying for the state tournament all four years, advancing to the quarterfinals in his first season while losing in the first round the next three.

His final team ended its year Tuesday night fighting its way to the very end of a 2-1 loss. The Wolves, the Narrows League Bridge Division champs, finished off the season with a 13-2-4 mark. But it was the way they finished off the season that impressed their coach.

"After the Bellarmine game (a 6-1 loss in the Narrows League championship game two weeks ago), we talked about if our season should end prematurely, if any game should not go in our favor, let's let it be like this,” Bergeson said Tuesday night. “Let's go down fighting. And we did."  

After switching up a defense that had allowed just five goals in its first 16 games but gave up a whopping nine in its last two, the Wolves contained Jackson’s high-scoring duo of Kristi Kingman and Dani Oster for the first 40 minutes. Bergeson moved junior Kelsey Penn from forward to defender to shore up his back line and add some protection from the Timberwolves pair that had combined to score 37 goals and 31 assists coming into the game.

Kingma got Jackson on the board six minutes into the second half on what Bergeson said was a crossing pass that missed its target and instead found the top right corner of the South goal, just over the reach of goalie C.J. Balstad.

“It looked to me to be a pass,” Bergeson said. “And that’s a very common thing in soccer – put the ball in a dangerous area and good things happen. It’s academic whether it was a pass or a shot.”

What was not academic was that Kingma added her second goal of the night five minutes later off a feed by Oster.

“The only defensive breakdown that we didn’t recover from was the second goal,” Bergeson said.

That breakdown was letting Kingma break free and receive a perfect feed from Oster, who Bergeson felt was contained all night and forced to give up the ball or take low-percentage shots all night long.

Down 2-0, the Wolves could have done what most teams do at that point, give up. But this group fought its way back and put themselves in position to tie the game.

"We talked about if they scored, to go get the ball and bring it back to them," senior forward and captain Cassie Brown said. “We definitely picked it up.”

Brown found junior Kelsey Penn open in front of the Timberwolves net and Penn ripped a shot past Jackson goalie Dee Wood, cutting the score to 2-1 with 18 minutes left in the game. The Wolves then turned up the heat and got a couple of really nice looks in the closing minutes.

Carpenter just missed getting a foot on a shot with a half open goal in front of her while a bicycle kick by sophomore Kaitlin Myles, who Bergeson said played her best game of the year, was barely stopped by Wood.

But in the end, South bowed out of the first round for the third year in a row. But Bergeson still calls what would end up being his final year, a definite success.

“To call this year a success would be an understatement,” Bergeson said. “We measure success not just by wins and losses … it was a resounding success. Only one team doesn’t feel what we just felt, there’s only one team that doesn’t have their season end earlier than they would like. And it breaks our heart.

“Are we disappointed, you bet,” Bergeson said. “But I don’t have too much room in my mind for the disappointment because the pride pushes it aside.”

Jackson 2, South Kitsap 1

Second half - 1. Jackson, Kristi Kingma, 46th minute. 2. Jackson, Kingma (Dani Oster), 51st. 3. South Kitsap, Kelsey Penn (Cassie Brown), 63nd.

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