TONASKET – Tonasket’s girls soccer team scored an eventful 4-3 victory over Liberty Bell in the Tigers’ season-opener on Thursday, Sept. 6, notching a pair of short-handed goals in the final 10 minutes to earn the come-from-behind win.
Kelly Cruz drilled a game-winning penalty kick in the 80th minute, atoning for an earlier miss, after being taken down at the top of the penalty box while breaking through the last line of Liberty Bell’s defense.
It was a victory that was hard to see coming until the final moments as the Tigers only led for the final 15 seconds of play.
“It seemed like every time there was a bounce, it would go the wrong way,” said Tonasket coach Darren Collins. “It really seemed like everything was going against us. I’m really proud of the girls for how they battled. The fact that we won, I’m kind of at a loss for words.”
The breaks definitely didn’t go Tonasket’s way, at least until the final minute.
Tonasket dominated play for most of the first half, but Liberty Bell goalkeeper Kaya Archambault made a number of tough saves. The Tigers also had three shots go off the post.
The Mountain Lions also had two balls hit the post, but both bounced in for scores.
Liberty Bell eighth-grader Danielle Mott opened the scoring with a shot off the post in the first half, and Kathleen Chavey-Reyna scored on a penalty kick — also off the post — just two minutes later as the Mountain Lions took a 2-0 halftime lead.
Kathryn Clemen drilled yet another shot off the post early in the second half, but Cruz finally got the Tigers on the board by sweeping past the Liberty Bell defense on the left side, burying a well-earned wide open shot. Hilda Celestino picked up the assist.
Cruz had a chance to tie it moments later, but missed a penalty kick.
“My jaw just dropped,” Collins said. “She’s as automatic as they come.”
Kylie Dellinger’s first career goal off a thread-the-needle pass from Cruz tied it at 2-2, but momentum shifted back Liberty Bell’s way when Jayden Vugteveen was red carded for tripping a Liberty Bell player — a ruling the Tigers vehemently protested to no avail.
That forced the Tigers to play 10-on-11 for the final 20 minutes, and Liberty Bell’s Tulie Budiselech scored minutes later to give the Mountain Lions a 3-2 lead.
When Alicia Edwards scored for the Tigers during a goal-mouth scramble to tie it at 3-3 with about seven minutes left, it appeared the game would end in a draw, and the Tigers (1-0) would have been happy to take it under the circumstances.
But Cruz got one last chance, splitting the middle of the Mountain Lion defense and drawing a foul to set up the winning PK.
“With everything that happened, we somehow outscored them 4-1 in the second half,” Collins said. “Our youth on defense showed a few times, but once they settled in I thought they did pretty well. The biggest problem I had was getting our midfielders to come forward while we were on offense, and in the second half they did that.
“It was a good comeback. I liked how we stuck with it when we were down two and nothing was going our way.”
The Tigers were set to open Caribou Trail League play at Okanogan on Tuesday, Sept. 11.