Wildcat soccer in tough fight for playoff berth

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BELLEVUE - The Mount Si Wildcats girls' soccer team is in the thick of the pack fighting for three Kingco Conference tournament berths.

Last Tuesday, the Wildcats continued to bolster its case for a postseason slot with a 6-2 win over the hapless Interlake Saints at Interlake High School. Mariana Zanella, the Wildcats' new freshman star, certainly has taken over the go-to scoring role vacated by Kristen Berndt's graduation following last season. The forward scored four goals in the rout, and earned praise from Mount Si coach Darren Brown.

"[It's] pretty amazing for a freshman, but not surprising by any means," said Brown.

Brown added that he had seen this coming.

"When I first coached Mariana [when she was 13], I knew she was special. I expected a great freshman year from her because of the combination of her skill, dedication and work ethic. She is the complete package," Brown wrote.

The teams that the Wildcats are fighting with - Issaquah, Bellevue and Mercer Island - all won matches last Tuesday, leaving the four teams in a tight race, with first place separating fourth by only four points.

Last Thursday, Mount Si played Issaquah in a barnburner, but unfortunately for the Wildcats the Eagles won the game 1-0.

Mount Si is one team that likely will not be sad to see Issaquah senior captain Lauren Dascenzo graduate. Dascenzo did in the Wildcats again, just like she did in the teams' previous meeting this season, scoring the lone goal on a rebound in the fourth minute.

The Eagles then used tough, physical defense to control most of the rest of the game. Mount Si had its chances, but those went to no avail.

"I think we had our chances. I think that we should have capitalized. It was pretty evenly matched. We're both aggressive and they just put away their opportunities that they had. They wanted it," said Wildcats sophomore Kirsten Mills.

Things got worse in the 73rd minute when Zanella collided with an Eagles' player and fell to the turf, injuring her left knee. After several minutes, Zanella was helped off the field. She appeared to have suffered a severe sprain of the knee, according to Brown.

"That scared me. I thought it was her MCL [medial collateral ligament], but she can put a little weight on it now," said Brown.

The team is rallying around their injured star.

"[We] want her to get better so she can play in our next game, and if she can't, then we definitely want to try hard and fill her position and win it so she can play in the next game and do well," said Wildcats' junior midfielder Collette Hatch.

There was some consolation, though, as Bellevue also lost last Thursday 1-0 to Newport, so Mount Si (7-4-1) remained in third place one point ahead of the Wolverines (7-5). Mills says the team needs to take care of its own business.

"We still need to continue to dominate our opponents and just go out hard with fire every game, and continue to put our destiny in our own hands and not let other teams decide where we're going to go and what we're going to do," Mills said.

This is the final week of the regular season and it ends with what clearly will be the most important game of the year Thursday at Mercer Island. With Bellevue facing Interlake Thursday as well, the Wildcats most likely will have to win this game against the Islanders in order to secure a postseason berth. Otherwise, the season probably will be over.

Kickoff on Mercer Island's senior night is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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