Bearcats Best Tigers for Battle on the Blacktop Crown


TENINO — For a game that meant nothing, with one unofficial referee, at a stadium a quick drive away from both schools, Centralia and W.F. West’s meetup Sunday sure felt like it had a bit extra of an edge on it.

“It was fun, it always is when it’s two rivals,” W.F. West coach Allen Anderson said. “We typically scrimmage most summers, and it’s usually intense and fun. Also the kids know each other from the offseason playing together, and that’s what makes the rivalry that much more fun.”

So as the longest heatwave of the summer in Washington finally broke, giving way to a cool and humid evening, the Tigers and Bearcats brought some heat of their own to the finale of the Battle on the Blacktop. With an honest-to-goodness crowd in the stands and no shortage of pushing and shoving on the field, Chehalis ended up nicking it in penalty kicks after a 1-1 tie in shortened regulation.

“It felt like the Swamp Cups coming up,” first-year Centralia coach Noel Vazquez said. “Those are going to be a couple good games this season.”

For 50 minutes, the Tigers had upset on their mind — an idea that itself belies the notion of a scrimmage — after cashing in on an own goal midway through the first half. W.F. West maintained the bulk of possession, but Centralia got runs of its own in to keep the Bearcats honest and always had the answer on the back line. And when Chehalis did break through, senior goalkeeper Lily Babka came up with save after save, keeping her sheet clean through halftime.

Coming out of the break, though, W.F. West kept up the pressure, and it finally paid off in the 49th minute, when senior Cam Sheets — playing for the first time this weekend for the Bearcats — curled a corner kick off of Babka’s hands and into the net to tie it up.

“In my opinion, she’s the best female soccer player in Lewis County,” Anderson said. “I don’t honestly think there’s anybody close to her skillset. She does everything for the team. In the offseason, she organizes all of their things. She’s one of the most true, outright leaders that I’ve coached with our girls programs in many years.”

That sent the match straight to the penalty spot, where three pairs of Tigers and Bearcats peppered the net to start the shootout. Staysha Fluetsch, stepping into the No. 1 keeper role for WFW over the weekend, came up with a save on Centralia’s fourth attempt, then watched the Tigers’ fifth sail over the crossbar to clinch the win.

“This was the first time I got to see her in game action, and I wanted to see her in that situation,” Anderson said. “That was exciting. I know she was a bit nervous, and I’m happy for her to get that save.”

On top of the win in the final, W.F. West finished the weekend with a 3-1 record, leading the four-team field. After taking second in the 2A Evergreen last fall, the Bearcats are reloading to try to make a deeper run in the district tournament.

“We have a lot of underclassmen; we’re a young team this year,” Anderson said. “It was really fun to see them out there on the field bonding with some of our upperclassmen and building that chemistry together.”

Centralia finished an even 2-2, winning its games over Tenino and Napavine, falling by a goal to W.F. West on Saturday, and then losing Sunday’s shootout.

Taking over a program that’s won just four matches in the past two seasons, Vazquez saw a lot going in the right direction with his Tigers, heading into his first season in charge of a 2A program.

“I think the boost that we’re going to get entering the season is going to be a good feeling,” he said. “I think we’re going to compete with the 2As, and hopefully start turning this around a little bit.”

Beavers Win Their Own Shootout

Despite playing for all of the nonexistent marbles, the Tigers and Bearcats didn’t wind up in the first shootout of the evening, or take the most dramatic route to get there. Both of those honors went to Tenino and Napavine, who played 60 hectic minutes that finished in a 2-2 tie, before the Beavers took the match at the spot.

Despite playing on the back foot for most of the first half, Tenino struck first on a 30-yard strike from Kami Oliviera. Ten minutes later, Oliveria struck again straight out of a water break, stealing a goal kick and getting the ball to Natalie Lucero, who laid it back to her for an easy goal.

“(Lucero) normally doesn’t play forward for us,” Tenino coach Dave Montgomery said. “I put her in there to give our forward a spell, and sure enough, the ball comes to her and she lays it back to Kam, who finishes. She was worried she was going to mess up, and literally within 10 seconds she assisted on a goal. That was pretty cool.”

But after nearly two full halves without creating many chances, Napavine finally found its offense through the air. Two minutes into second-half stoppage time, Danielle Tupuola controlled the ball off a long throw-in, turned and fired it home to half the deficit. Five minutes later, it was Tupuola again, heading home another throw to level the score.

Any momentum the Tigers got from the furious comeback evaporated immediately though, as they sailed their first penalty well over the crossbar, hooked the second wide left, and chipped the third out to the right. A make later, Tenino keeper Dakota Lees came up with the winning save, diving to her left to push a ball past the post.

Tenino wrapped its weekend 2-2, adding a Saturday win over W.F. West. Napavine, the lone 2B squad in the field, went 1-3, beating the Beavers on Saturday in the heat.

“We’re figuring that out too,” Napavine coach Mike Dieckman said. “But I think we’ll do well in the season.”