By Andy Orozco
In a thrilling showdown under the Tuesday night lights, the Bonney Lake Panthers hosted the Southridge Suns in the first round of the state tournament Playoffs on Nov. 7.
With the tantalizing prospect of facing the top-seeded Bellevue at Bellevue High School hanging in the balance, this match was nothing short of a do-or-die affair. The stakes were high, and the atmosphere was electric as two evenly matched teams collided in a battle for survival.
Ranked 16th and 17th, respectively, Bonney Lake and Southridge were well aware that only one of them would have the opportunity to continue their postseason journey, while the other would bid farewell to their dreams of glory. It was a showdown that had fans on the edge of their seats, and the air was thick with anticipation.
The Panthers, donning their home black jerseys, faced off against the Suns in their crisp white attire. The ground beneath them still bore the remnants of earlier rain, but there was no rain on the parade of passionate soccer fans who had gathered to witness this clash of titans. The chilly temperatures did little to deter the fervor of the crowd, who were eager to soak in the excitement of playoff soccer.
The game burst into life in the 4th minute when junior sensation Jaylee Reynolds unleashed a spectacular shot from 20 yards out, sending the ball rocketing into the back of the net. The roar of the crowd was met with the familiar “Panther Growl” over the intercom as the home team surged to a 1-0 lead. It was a moment that set the tone for an electrifying encounter.
As the game unfolded, both defenses resembled impenetrable fortresses. For the next half an hour, it was a test of resilience, with the Suns relentlessly pressing into the Panthers’ territory. However, the Bonney Lake defense stood tall, and their goalkeeper, Reese Snider-Welsh, showcased her remarkable skills with a series of awe-inspiring saves to keep the scoreline close.
Finally, in the 32nd minute, the Suns managed to break through, capitalizing on a corner kick that found its way through a sea of players. It was freshman Genesis Mendoza who found the back of the net, leveling the score at 1-1. The defense remained resolute as the first half drew to a close, setting the stage for a riveting second half.
As the second half kicked off, the Panthers took control of the offense, dictating the pace of the game and spending more time in the Suns’ half of the field. The breakthrough finally arrived in the 84th minute, and it was Anne Anderson who stepped up to take a penalty kick. Placed strategically at 10 yards, the ball found it’s way to the middle of the pitch, where Grace Atkinson delivered a picture-perfect header into the corner of the net, giving the Panthers a 2-1 advantage.
With that goal, the outcome of the match was sealed, and as time ran out, the Bonney Lake Panthers secured their passage to the next stage of the state tournament.
Their reward? A date with destiny against the number one ranked team, Bellevue, at Bellevue High School on Friday, Nov. 10 at 6 pm. It’s a matchup that promises to be a thrilling spectacle, and soccer fans will be eagerly awaiting the next chapter in the Panthers’ postseason journey.