SAMMAMISH — The strategy itself produced mixed results.
But if nothing else, the final four minutes of South Kitsap’s 1-all tie at Eastlake were entertaining.
South coach Julie Cain decided to move an extra player forward as both schools struggled to score. That helped Eastlake end the stalemate as freshman midfielder/forward Alysa Barlow scored in the 76th minute.
“We opened up our back and that’s the risk you take,” said Cain, adding that she wanted to give her team experience in a come-from-behind situation before league play begins.
But South (2-0-1), which has trailed in every match this season, did not concede. From the 20-yard line on the right-hand side of the field, sophomore midfielder Ari de la Cruz’s kick beat freshman goalkeeper Elena Perez with two minutes remaining.
“The girls didn’t get down from the goal,” Cain said. “This is a good group culture-wise. They’re never down. They have confidence they can come back.”
Despite the lack of scoring, Cain was pleased with how her team performed at Eastlake, which competes in the Class 4A KingCo League.
“I thought in the first half we moved the ball maybe as well as I’ve seen here at South,” Cain said.
She felt her team had more shots during the second half, but that was somewhat minimized by the distance on those opportunities.
That was not the only aspect of the match that was long. Two of South’s three nonleague matches have been more than an hour away from the school. South opened the season with a 2-1 win Sept. 9 at King’s, a 1A private school in Shoreline. Cain said she likes competing against high-level programs, but she had another reason for choosing certain schools for nonleague contests.
“We want all of our [nonleague away] games on turf,” she said. “That’s because the playoffs are on turf.”
South’s quest to return to the state playoffs for the first time since 2011 begins Thursday at Stadium. The 4A Narrows League home opener is Tuesday against Olympia.
Cain said league matches will take on an even greater significance this season as the 4A Narrows champion receives an automatic berth to the state tournament. Unlike previous years, other teams that qualify for districts must win two matches to advance to state.
At Eastlake 1, South Kitsap 1
Second half-1, Eastlake, Alysa Barlow, 76th minute; 2, South Kitsap Ari de la Cruz, 78th.