Rivals riding high

EJ girls soccer wins fourth straight

Posted 10/14/22

Thursday night’s triumph over the Annie Wright Gators marks four straight wins for the East Jefferson girls soccer team with the Rivals comfortably wrangling the Gators on their way to a 5-2 …

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Rivals riding high

EJ girls soccer wins fourth straight


Thursday night’s triumph over the Annie Wright Gators marks four straight wins for the East Jefferson girls soccer team with the Rivals comfortably wrangling the Gators on their way to a 5-2 victory.

Backed by Iris Mattern’s two scoring strikes, two Ava Shiflett goals from the penalty spot, and a goal from Kaylen Pray, EJ’s attacking line put on a show while the midfield funneled plenty of passes to the open space.

The Rivals defense held steady for the most part, aside from a late-game resurgence from the Gators.

Both squads sported winning records heading into the matchup Thursday evening at Port Townsend’s Memorial Athletic Field, making the game a crucial bout in the Nisqually League.

With freshman starting keeper Tayla Davis out due to injury, senior Emerson Pirwitz filled in between the posts for the Rivals.

After the opening whistle the Rivals were quick to attack, with passes between senior midfielder Leah Harrison and senior defender Shelby Thibeault down the right sideline leading to the first EJ corner minutes into the affair.

Junior Ava Shiflett got started in the midfield, sliding a beautiful cross down the right side to Kay Botkin, who made good contact on a well-placed shot, but the Gator keeper kept the score level with a spry save.

Senior Kaylen Pray slid a pass to Botkin, then to Thibeault, who had a good chance at net from the right side. Before Thibeault could get a shot off, an Annie Wright defender slid in to hold EJ off for the time being.

Providing color commentary throughout the affair was Port Townsend High’s Dean of Students Philip Mackey-Moseley, whose British accent on the play-by-play provided a new sense of authenticity to the game.

The constant pressure from Thibeault, Shiflett, Pray, Iris Mattern, and others finally payed off around midway through the opening half.

Thibeault found space down the right sideline, passing the ball to Shiflett, then Mattern took possession from the left and rattled a power shot to the net. The low shot sliced past the keeper’s left side to put the Rivals up 1-0 with 21 minutes remaining in the first half.

Eight minutes later, Mattern scored her second. Harrison aimed perhaps the best pass of the game with a perfectly placed through ball to Mattern’s feet in front of goal. A 50-50 clash with the keeper ended with Mattern in possession as she slid the ball in for goal number two.

EJ led the affair 2-0 with 12 minutes left. The Rivals continued to dominate the opening half, limiting the Gators on offense and ripping through the defense throughout.

Pray, the leading goalscorer, got on the scorecard with a masterful run down midfield that Messi would be proud of. Swiftly dodging any defender that approached, she took the ball from midfield right inside Annie Wright’s penalty box, then pushed a bouncing shot into the netting.

The Rivals entered halftime in high spirits, leading 3-0.

While temporary keeper Pirwitz’s first half was relatively shot-free, the goalie made a couple crucial stops at the start of the second to keep the comfortable lead.

Then the Gators chomped back. Annie Wright players stacked the EJ penalty box with bodies after a cross from the left side, and the loose ball was collected and scored by a Gator attacker to make it 3-1 with 30 minutes left.

The Gators earned another chance at net a minute later, but this time Rivals defender Mi Amada Lanphear Ramirez put enough pressure on the opponents to force the shot wide.

As time started to wane, Annie Wright became desperate for the comeback. The Rivals continued to push, this time forcing a badly-timed Gator tackle on Pray to give EJ a penalty with 21 minutes left.

The crowd hushed as Shiflett approached to take the shot, fully concentrated. A powerful, low strike darted past the keeper and into the netting as Shiflett made it 4-1.

A minute later the Gators took advantage of a celebrating EJ squad to score and make it 4-2 with 20 minutes left on the clock.

The Rivals readjusted and Shiflett’s pass to Botkin in the penalty box minutes later earned yet another penalty with plenty of confusion on the field.

After Botkin was fouled, EJ junior Audrey Matthes collected the ball and scored, but the refs called it off before deciding on awarding a penalty to the Rivals.

Shiflett returned to the penalty spot, cool as a cucumber. This time she put some height on the strike to score again and make it 5-2. The Rivals locked up Annie Wright’s attacks for the rest of the matchup to walk off with a win over the Gators.

“Overall, I’d say I’m pretty happy with the performance, how everyone played individually,” EJ Head Coach Robert Cantley said.

“We’ve got a few girls that are kind of playing through injuries, so that’s always a little risky and we picked up an injury early in the game with Sienna [Emerson]. She clashed knees with somebody and didn’t come back in the game, so I’m hoping its not going to be long-term.”

“In the first half, the level of play that we were going for was everything I asked them to do,” Cantley added. “I felt like we completely were dominating the game.”

Looking towards their upcoming games and the ever-looming postseason, Cantley couldn’t help but feel confident.

“I’ve been talking to the girls about that, all of our games from here on out are difficult ones but winnable ones, and we can easily finish third, possibly second, and that’s what we’re going for. As long as we can stay healthy, that’s the biggest thing,” he said.

EJ was scheduled to face Cascade Christian School, a team the Rivals beat 4-1 in a prior matchup, on Tuesday away from home.

The Rivals’ current record sits at 5-2-2 in the Nisqually League, putting them at the Number Two spot in the league table behind undefeated Klahowya.