TENINO — It wasn’t the fact that a high school girls soccer match was being played in February — a sport that typically takes place in fall. That was strange enough. But, no, the weirdest part of Tenino and Rochester’s regular-season opener on Saturday was that a WIAA-sanctioned event was taking place at all.
After nearly 11 months of no high school sports, due to the pandemic, the Beavers and Warriors duked it out in the first WIAA regular-season event in the state in 2021. It didn’t disappoint.
The Beavers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first 15 minutes and staved off Rochester’s late surge to take a 4-0 non-league victory over the Warriors in a wet and soggy matchup at home Saturday in front of a crowd that numbered in the dozens.
Tenino’s senior standout Brieanna Dell increased her career school record of goals to 88 with the opening score of the game in just the sixth minute. Dell received a pass from senior teammate Iris Campesino from the 30-yard mark to the 20, where Dell went around a defender and shot it with her left foot to the right-lower corner to find the back of the net.
Dell said it felt great to be back on the pitch and she knew soccer would return one day, she just didn’t know it would be so soon.
“We haven’t played in forever and I think it was good to come together as a team and play,” Dell said. “There’s always things we can work on as a team to get better. We have another game coming up and we’re just going to work harder in practice and be better next game.”
Tenino junior Alivia Hunter put the Beavers up 2-0 on an assist from Dell in the 16th minute, followed by junior midfielder Megan Letts’ penalty kick from 10 yards out that also found the back of the net to put Tenino up 3-0 in the 33rd minute. Tenino junior winger/midfielder Abby Severse closed out the scoring with a goal with 17 minutes left in the match.
Tenino outshot Rochester 14-1, including 11-1 on target. Severse made one save in goal in the first half. Rochester keeper Madison Bates recorded seven saves.
It had been 448 days since the Beavers had last played a match, since their state semifinal loss on Nov. 16, 2019.
“We were excited to be back,” Tenino coach Kevin Schultz said. “We didn’t play a single game in 2020, so they were just excited to play again. It was just fun to see them play and enjoy the game.”
The defending 1A Evergreen champion Beavers are coming off their best season in school history, in which they won their first district title in program history last fall. They followed that up with their first state victory in program history. The Beavers finished 18-1-1 overall, which included a 17-game win streak that stretched from Sept. 19, 2019 to Nov. 13, 2019. The Beavers outscored opponents 84-6 during that span, eventually falling in the state quarterfinals.
On Saturday, Schultz commended his midfield, Letts, Campesino and junior Grace Vestal, for moving the ball in the middle and creating opportunities. He was also pleased to see four goals scored by four different girls. He also applauded sophomore forward Kamryn Oliveira in her first varsity start.
Rochester was playing its first match since its 2019 regular-season finale on Oct. 29, 2019. The Warriors went 2-13 overall and 1-9 in 2A Evergreen Conference action last season. Coach Ken Matthews said he and his team were just happy to see some action and get back on the pitch after such a long period of time.
“Any game is a great game,” Matthews said. “This is kind of a special one to think we were the first ones in the state to kick it off. I wish we would have had a better result, but the girls were really excited for this. It was kind of a testing ground for us.”
Matthews praised senior right-defender Erin Hurivari, senior keeper Madison Bates, junior forward Kaylei Clark and freshman forward Staysha Fluetsch for their toughness and play on Saturday.
Normally players need 10 practices in order to compete in their first game. This year, with the COVID-shortened seven-week season, players only need five practices to play a game. That meant both teams weren’t as conditioned as they normally would be by the first game of the year.
“We’re a little out of shape,” Schultz said. “We played a little deeper than we normally do, but I thought we controlled the game, and when we had the starters out there we did a really good job of keeping the ball and creating chances. We’ve got to get a little better at finishing, but it was a good result for us.”
Tenino (1-0) hosts 1A EvCo rival Montesano at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Rochester (0-1) hosts 2A EvCo rival Black Hills at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.