Highline 1 Peninsula 0
In the end, it took grit, perseverance, an unbreakable defense, and a jewel of a kick in overtime for Highline to win its first ever championship. After playing to a scoreless tie in regulation time, it was Jewel Boland, Highline’s top goal scorer, playing with a heavily wrapped left leg, who hit a rocket from 20 yards that caromed off the top crossbar into the Peninsula goal at 1:06 into overtime. After a moment of stunned silence, Boland raised her right arm in celebration, and then found herself in a joyous bear hug by teammates McKenzie Buell and Bella Keane, who were quickly joined by a mad rush of the rest of the team. The Peninsula players left the field in silence, suffering their only loss of the season after entering the game at a perfect 19-0-0. It was Highline who finished as the league’s only unbeaten team at 18-0-2, and as the 2017 NWAC Women’s Soccer Champions.
In addition to the winning goal by Boland, assisted by Bella Keane, the story of the game was Highline’s defense, which had surrendered only five goals all season, best in the NWAC Conference. Although constantly tested by Peninsula, with the league’s most prolific offense averaging seven goals a game, and hanging on by its collective fingernails at the end of regulation time, the Thunderbird defense, with Jocelyn Hanrath in goal, kept Peninsula at bay.
The fact that the win came against Peninsula made the victory even sweeter for Highline. The teams entered this game with the two best offenses and defenses in the league. And these teams are no strangers to each other; over the years the two teams have developed an intense rivalry, and in 2016 it was the Pirates, ironically enough, who defeated Highline 1-0 in double overtime in the championship game.
One of the most poignant moments in the post-game celebration by Highline was the team holding up the Number 9 jersey that Haylei Hughes would have been wearing. Hughes, a highly regarded recruit to the team, was tragically killed in a hiking accident in July. For a team that started with adversity before the season even started, it was a moment of grace and remembrance in the midst of celebration.
For the Thunderbirds, Jewel Boland was named the game’s Most Valuable Player, and Tori Morton, in addition to perhaps being the most intense T-Bird, was named Most Inspirational Player.
Tom Moore (in NWAC report) ““We were so focused,” said Moore. “We went through so much adversity this year, I couldn’t even explain it to you. This game meant so much more than just ‘the game.’ There wasn’t much that was going to stop us.”
And in the end, nothing did stop the Thunderbirds, who won on grit, defense, and a jewel of a goal when it counted most.
NWAC Coach of the Year – Tom Moore
West Region MVP – Jewel Boland
Forwards – Jewel Boland | Hailey Small
Midfielders – Bianca Acuario | Sara Oland
Defenders – Tea Lopes | Bella Keane
Keeper – Jocelyn Hanrath