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Liberty Bell soccer returns to state

Mountain Lions to tackle Bear Creek

— Liberty Bell held off a late charge by Bridgeport for a hard-fought 3-2 district soccer playoff victory.

The Mountain Lions (11-7) advance for a second straight trip to the Final Four of the 1B/2B girls soccer tournament.

Liberty Bell will be trying to improve on last year’s fourth-place state finish by taking on two-time state champion Bear Creek at 4 p.m. Friday at Sunset Chev Stadium, 1707 Main St., Sumner. Liberty Bell also finished fourth in state the third year of the program.

Adna plays Crosspoint at 2 p.m. in the other semifinal.

The losers play at 10 a.m. Saturday for third and fourth place. The winners play at 2 p.m. for first and second place.

Bear Creek beat Liberty Bell, 4-0, in a non-league match in mid-September.

“I could see why they won state,” Olson said. “They have a very good program and a very good coach.”

Like so much of the season, the Mountain Lions were without a player against the Grizzlies – striker Lauren Fitzmaurice, a ninth-grader, was missing after breaking an arm against Tonasket two days earlier.

“This year was crazy,” coach Erik Olson said of numerous injuries. “There was no two games consecutively that we started the same 11 on the field. The girls every day came out and never let things get them down and improved.

“At the end of the day we are at state.”

Injuries, besides to Fitzmaurice, included Cassidy Butler with a broken arm, MacKenzie Woodworth with a couple broken fingers and concussions suffered by Tulie Budiselich, Lauren Ochoa and Ella Hall.

Concussions require a six-week healing period, Olson said.

Heading to state as the lone Eastern Washington team, Liberty Bell will be without Butler and probably without Hall, who is day-to-day.

The Lions, who started league play with five eighth-graders, three freshmen, a junior and two seniors on the field, are on a four-game winning streak, the longest of the season.

“There are so many quality programs and so many more schools on the west side,” Olson said. “It would be really hard to have two entries to state from the east side, I think.”

Bridgeport (15-2) was trying to be the lone team on this side of the Cascades, but for most of the game the play was in the Fillies’ side of the field.

“We started really slow, the girls were really nervous,” Bridgeport coach Gabe Gonzalez said. “They were playing in their first district final in a long time.”

Liberty Bell’s Mia Kennedy sent a corner kick to the middle in the fourth minute. The ball was deflected by Bridgeport into its own goal.

Kennedy made it 2-0 by dribbling past a couple players and getting a good shot on goal in the sixth minute.

“The first 15 minutes of each half we played phenomenal ball,” Olson said. “It was not a question who was the better team.”

Liberty Bell midfielder Estrella Corrigan upped the lead to 3-0 seven minutes into the second period.

“After that we tried to come back,” Gonzalez said. “We pretty much put a lot of players in the forward position.”

The pressure did not pay off until Jenny Salazar found net with five minutes to go.

Paula Soto followed about a minute later.

Olson said the Mountain Lions’ inexperience showed late in the game, with both a letdown thinking the game was won and not finding ways to wind time off the clock.

“They played better defense on our end of the field late in the game,” Olson said of Bridgeport.

Bridgeport took 8 shots on goal in the first half and again in the second half.

Liberty Bell made good on its few chances – 5 in the first half and 6 in the second half.

“We had a lot of chances, coming back, but it didn’t happen,” Gonzalez said. “Pretty much the last 10 minutes of the game we were playing on their side. That’s part of the game, though.

“I told them before the game, the team that is more willing to win is going to take it. I am really proud of the girls; they did really good. They never gave up.”

Bridgeport’s only other loss was 3-0 to Brewster to start the season. The Fillies, riding a 16-game win streak until the district final loss, had been averaging .63 goal against per game. They beat Liberty Bell 1-0 and 2-1 in previous games.

“That’s about half a goal per game,” said Gonzalez, whose team had 8 shutouts this year and had given up only 1 goal in its previous six games. “I think that was pretty good.”

Olson predicts Liberty Bell will continue to make runs to state for the next few years as the young players mature and gain experience.

“Our expectations are not to just finish fourth, but to get a title in the next couple years,” the coach said.

Olson took over as coach in early October from Mike Wilson, who is on administrative leave. Lucas Budrow continues as an assistant coach, working with the goalkeepers and defense.

“I will be with both programs (he will coach the boys in the spring) for an extended time now,” Olson said. “I like where I am at now.”

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