Blankenship leads Centralia to first win over W.F. West since 2017


After 80 minutes of regulation and a 10 minute golden-goal period, the W.F. West and Centralia girls soccer teams remained in a scoreless deadlock.

In the penalty shootout, five Bearcats stepped up to the spot in the penalty kick shootout, but only one scored. Braylee Blankenship made four saves in the shootout to snap Centralia’s 12-game losing streak to their rivals, beating the Bearcats for the first time since Sept. 5, 2017.

“I’m just very excited for them. The sky’s the limit now,” Centralia coach Luis Magana Reyna said after the game, while still catching his breath from sprinting down the field to celebrate with his team.

“I told them that regardless of what happens today on the field, all I want to know is that you left your heart out on the field, and you played as hard as you could. And I’m so proud of them for doing that.”

He also made sure to note how proud he was of Blankenship, saying “today she stepped up big.”

Though it was immediately after the shootout, Magana Reyna wasn’t just talking about the penalty kicks. Throughout regulation and the overtime period, Blankenship tallied nine saves to keep the Bearcats off the board.

On the other side of the field, W.F. West keeper Staysha Fleutsch was just as impressive in a losing effort. She had 10 saves overall, including two that came on Grade A chances for the Tigers.

In the 44th minute, Olivia Gruginski dribbled past two Bearcat defenders and took a shot near the top of the 18-yard box, but Fleutsch was able to deflect it away.

Her biggest save of the night came in the final moments of regulation, when Centralia’s Violet Ratkie had the ball in a similar position, and took a high-arching shot that seemed destined for the opposite corner of the net.

Instead, Fleutsch ranged to her right and got enough of it to push it wide. The ensuing corner produced nothing, and the final whistle of regulation was blown.

The key difference, of course, came in the shootout, when Fleutsch didn’t make a save. Even then, on two shots at least, it was because she didn’t need to. Centralia’s second and third shots rang off the post, allowing the Bearcats to get more chances at the spot.

While they had a similar number of chances, Bearcat coach Kevin Schultz said that the quality of their chances needs to improve moving forward. 

“We didn’t pass well enough today,” Schultz said. “We got a little too desperate … we gotta value the ball more and finish better.”

The Bearcats best chance came on a free kick just outside the top of the box, but it was sent just over the crossbar.

What made the loss even more frustrating for the Bearcats is that at the end of yesterday’s practice, they spent time on penalty kicks. Schultz said the five shooters who took a PK during the loss each performed well in practice.

“But sometimes in the moment it translates differently,” he said.

Schultz also noted that he didn’t think the intensity and energy levels were where they needed to be for a rivalry game, while Magana Reyna noted that some of the Tigers were asking for subs because of how much energy they were putting forward on defense.

Now on a three-game winning streak, the Tigers will look to stay hot next Thursday, when they’ll host winless Black Hills. Looking to get back in the win column, the Bearcats will head to Eatonville on Saturday.