San Diego SeaLions forward Shelby Murphy battles an Issaquah SC defender for the ball. Murphy would later score the game-winning goal.
Women's Soccer News: San Diego SeaLions Take 2-1 Win over Issaquah SC in WPSL West Semi-Finals
Alex Webber and Shelby Murphy Score as San Diego Earns Berth in Finals on Sunday
On a hot summer day, with temperatures in some areas hovering in the upper 80s, the San Diego SeaLions captured a 2-1 victory over Issaquah SC in the first round of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) Western Conference semi-finals at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, Calif. With the win the SeaLions earned the right to take on Salt Lake United, who won their semi-final match against the California Storm, for the Western Conference championship. The winner will travel to Pensacola, Fla., next weekend to face the other three conference winners in the WPSL Championship series.
The SeaLions had reached the playoffs as the Pacific-South champions, going undefeated and un-tied until the final game of the regular season. Issaquah, on the other hand, had finished second in the Northwest behind Spokane Shine, but earned the right to go to the playoffs when Spokane declined to continue.
Both teams came out strong in the heat, and the game was fairly evenly matched for the first fourteen minutes. Then in the fifteenth minute San Diego put together an attack that resulted in a scramble in front of the goal. Midfielder Danica Carey went up for a header and collided with Issaquah’s goalkeeper and a defender. As the three tumbled to the pitch, the ball dribbled off toward the goal mouth. Forward Alex Webber was in the right place at the right time to get a foot on the ball and redirect it into the net.
“I just tried to get some body part on it to get it in the goal because it was right there,” said Webber. “I just gave it everything and I was glad I got enough on to get it in.”
The game continued to shift back and forth through the remainder of the half, but the period ended with the SeaLions hanging on to a 1-0 lead.
In the second half the SeaLions came out with additional determination, looking to open up some breathing space against Issaquah. Their chance came in the 52nd minute on another goal-mouth scramble. Once again it was Webber in the thick of things as she went into the keeper on a 50-50 ball. The two fell to the ground and the ball bounced away. Issaquah attempted to clear it, but Shelby Murphy was there to hammer the ball into the net for what would prove to be the winning goal.
|SeaLions goalkeeper Kaycee Gunion denies Issaquah's Maylee Attin-Johnson on the attack.
||Shelby Murphy scores the eventual winning goal for the SeaLions early in the second half.
Issaquah doubled the pressure, but San Diego managed to clear every attack until the 89th minute. Issaquah forward and Trinidad & Tobago Women’s National Team member Maylee Attin-Johnson centered a pass to midfielder Abby Brauer, who then passed it along to defender Mary Hill who had pushed up past midfield. Hill took the ball in past one SeaLion defender and lofted a left-footed shot across her body that sailed just over the reach of San Diego goalkeeper Kaycee Gunion for the score.
“I just opened up, dribbled past one person, and shot it across my body and it soared over the keeper,” said Hill. “It was kind of sick, I won’t lie. It was very exciting. I just wanted to do something good [for the team].”
During the play Gunion came down hard on her left shoulder, aggravating a previous injury. After several minutes she was helped off the field and Rachel Boaz came in to close out the game and help the SeaLions to the 2-1 victory.
“I think our biggest thing was trying to find a rhythm early on, which was one thing I think we struggled with a little bit,” said SeaLions head coach Jen Lalor-Nielsen after the game, “but we put our chances away and I think that was the difference.”
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way our girls came together and really rallied,” said Issaquah head coach Erin Redwine. “We didn’t play our best today. We just didn’t complete the plays we needed to, especially in the final third. But we rallied back and I’m proud of the girls for rallying back and making it interesting at the end. All in all it was a good year and I’m proud of the girls. I’m just disappointed, of course, because I think that the result could have been different, but we’ll learn from it and move on next year.”
San Diego will face Salt Lake United, who defeated California Storm 3-1 in the second semi-final match. The Western Conference championship will take place on Sunday, July 22, at Cathedral Catholic High School, with kickoff at 3:50 p.m.