PUYALLUP — One thing Puyallup girls soccer coach Matt White always preaches is “playing to the next …”
It means forgetting what just happened and looking ahead.
That mantra served the Vikings well as senior forward Sydney Evans knocked in a slow-rolling, left-footed shot from 13 yards out during added time as Puyallup downed Auburn Riverside 2-1 on Saturday in the Class 4A state championship match at Sparks Stadium.
Evans’ goal with less than 30 seconds remaining gave Puyallup (18-2-2) the school’s first state crown in girls soccer and it came off a hustle play and a pass from Meredith Udovich, who corralled a loose ball near the end line.
“I knew Mere was going to get to that, and she never gives up on anything,” Evans said. “Any ball that is about to go out, she keeps running for it. It was so nerve-wracking, and I hoped Meredith could cross that really fast, because I didn’t know how much time was left.
“I was freaking out, because this is the only chance we have. And once I shot it, I was so excited and so happy. And it slowly went in.”
The Ravens tied the match at 1-1 when junior midfielder Emma Lane poked in a rebound shot through a crowd of defenders in the 59th minute.
For White, who coached the Puyallup boys team to a state title last spring, it was doubly rewarding, but also chilling. The girls team dumped a cooler of icy water on him.
“One of our phrases is ‘Play for the next …’ so it doesn’t matter if you score a goal or get scored on,” said White. “If you’re worried about what just happened or celebrating what just happened, you’ve got to do the next thing. For us, nothing’s gone. You’ve got to do the next thing. On (Riverside’s equalizing goal), you just go, ‘Unlucky.’
“So literally we gave up the goal, I looked at the bench, and I didn’t even have to say it and they’re saying ‘Play for the next, play for the next.’ Then, we just went back at them.”
Especially their senior midfielder.
“It’s all about grit, and we just play for the next all the time,” Udovich said. “You don’t stop, even if it’s the last 30 seconds and you just try to find that open girl and (Evans) just hit it right in the net.”
Auburn Riverside (20-2-1) had not lost in 16 matches since a 1-0 loss to Enumclaw on Sept. 24.
“I think they eventually will be able look back at the legacy they left as a group and that will be pretty special,” Riverside coach Paul Lewis said after the school made it to a state final for the first time in a season full of firsts. “For me, it’s easy to see perspective, because I’ve been all those times to state and lost in the first round. For them, they don’t know all of that struggle.
“All they know is they had a shot to get the gold trophy. That’s why they’re gut-punched for the loss.”
Two goals in a 12-minute span in the second half lifted the Gonzaga Prep (20-3-0) to third place, equaling the school’s highest state finish, with a 2-1 win over Inglemoor. Inglemoor (14-3-3) had its best finish since taking second in 4A in 2001.