Undefeated heading into Tuesday’s Class 5A quarterfinal game against Kapaun Mount Carmel, logic would lead one to believe that the Valley Center girls soccer team didn’t need much of an introduction.
But the Hornets felt differently, and approached the game as one that could finally make believers out of the rest of the state.
“That’s why we were so ready to play, because we knew that this was the win that would define us and let everyone know we are the real deal,” Valley Center goalie Elayna Coleman said. “I won’t say it was easy, but I was ready to play. Everything is easier when you are ready. Your heart is in it.”
Coleman’s effort in goal was vital in Valley Center’s 1-0 win over Kapaun, which moves the Hornets into Friday’s semifinals.
“We had some free balls where their goalie came out and gobbled those balls up,” Kapaun coach Alan Shepherd said. “She had a couple of good saves on a couple of good shots that we had. To me that was the difference in the game.”
The scoring opportunities were plentiful for both teams. Valley Center’s Kylie Callendar found herself one-on-one with Kapaun goalie Victoria Kulas less than a minute into the game, but saw her shot miss wide right.
The rest of the half saw more of the same, with neither team finishing, leading to a 0-0 halftime score.
Midway through the second half, Valley Center finally broke the deadlock.
Madison Wedekind’s quick one-touch pass to Hanna Shelton led to the only goal of the game, a play Valley Center coach Jeff Burger described as “phenomenal.”
“We take a lot of pride in the last pass. Getting the goalie to commit to who has the ball and then passing it off to someone else,” Shelton said. “There it just worked out and it was a relief.”
Shelton said she expected a 1-0 type of game, which put a lot of pressure on the defense and the goalie to come through. And Coleman came through in a big way for Valley Center, often stopping the Kapaun attack before it could threaten to score.
“They’d get a chance but Elayna was there before they could get a shot off,” Burger said. “She doesn’t get credit for a lot of saves, but she sure got her hands on a lot of balls.”
Kapaun never gave in and continued to press in the final minutes. Taryn Kruse had the best opportunity to tie the score after she split three Hornet defenders, but her shot on goal went right into the hands of Coleman.
After that is was a game of keep away, one which ended with Valley Center heading back to state for the first time since 2011.
“I think this game really proves to everyone else that we are serious. We were 18-0 before but I still think teams didn’t expect much of us,” Coleman said. “This was the game we had been looking forward to all year. I think that was it, just being ready to play and fighting for it.”