Mount Si soccer fights for playoff life

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SNQUALMIE - With the third conference playoff spot up for grabs, the Mount Si Wildcats girls' soccer team continued its quest for a postseason berth last Tuesday with a 4-1 defeat of the Sammamish Totems. A Marinana Zanella hat trick capped a strong second-half effort to close the door on the home-field win.

"We came out with a purpose today. And that was to be the first to the balls, make our touch real clean, pass to our teammates and the whole system we're running is a triangle offense, and when we do that, we're dangerous," said Mount Si coach Darren Brown, as his team broke a two-game losing streak.

It was Sammamish that scored first as sophomore Kristy Staley broke in from Wildcats' goalkeeper Jessica Blessard's right side, and fired a high-arching shot over the sophomore to give the Totems the early 1-0 lead in the 29th minute. Blessard played despite a back problem that resulted partially from a recent illness.

Freshman forward Zanella responded quickly, ramming home her first goal just minutes later to tie the score at 1-1. Zanella then scored the game winner in the 58th minute, taking a feed from sophomore teammate Kirsten Mills and firing a one-timer into the back of the net past Sammamish goalkeeper Kelsey Hasselblad. Zanella and Mills then iced it with goals in second-half stoppage time to give the Wildcats the win.

Blessard's injury was not the only one the Wildcats were dealing with last Tuesday. On top of previously reported injuries to Amy Torget and Katie Woolsey, sophomore Cortney Becker missed the game and is out indefinitely after sustaining an ankle injury in the loss to Bellevue Oct. 7.

To deal with her back injury, Blessard has been working out.

"I have been stretching my back out a lot, when we're doing stretches practice wise and before our games, just stretch my back out a lot and at home, too," she said.

Team unity was a key factor in the win.

"I think everyone just came back hard after those two losses and really had a lot of fire and fight in us and just wanted to work together as a team and put them away and get our shot at playoffs," said Mills.

The offense continued its hot ways last Thursday as the Wildcats downed Liberty 2-0. Mount Si picked up goals from Zanella and Jessica Oliver.

Brown says to look for more of the same from his team down the stretch.

"We're going to stick with this the rest of the season. I'm not going to change any more formations. We're sticking to what we're doing right now because I think we can get momentum off [these wins]," the coach said.

The wins over the Totems and Patriots were critical since Mount Si now is fighting both Sammamish and Bellevue for the third, and last, playoff spot. Kingco Conference officials announced last Tuesday the conference will receive two state berths, with only three teams fighting for those berths.

For the Wildcats, this likely means the team, at minimum, will have to get points in all of its remaining matches and hope for some help along the way by Sammamish, and especially Bellevue, losing matches. Mount Si owns a head-to-head tiebreak against the Totems with a 1-0-1 mark, while the Wildcats are 1-1 head to head against the Wolverines. However, Mount Si would own a goals for/against tiebreaker against Bellevue should that be needed, as the Wildcats have outscored the Wolverines 5-1 in head-to-head games this season.

Wins, though, would eliminate worries about tiebreakers, and there is one important one they need to get this week. It is Thursday at Issaquah against the Eagles. Game time is 7:30 p.m.

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