Trailing at halftime, the Prairie girls soccer team faced a third straight year of state playoff disappointment.
A three-minute burst changed the Falcons’ fortunes.
Prairie scored twice in three minutes shortly after halftime to beat Marysville-Getchell 2-1 on Wednesday in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
The Falcons (12-5-1) advance to face unbeaten Stadium in the state quarterfinals in Tacoma, likely on Saturday.
Prairie had lost first-round state playoff matches on its home field the past two years. It hadn’t won a state match since 2010.
When Marysville-Getchell scored 20 minutes into the match, it looked like a cold wet evening might offer more playoff misery.
“Round of sixteen, on this field, we’ve lost every single time,” said senior Kaylin Sperley. “We’ve been there, and we didn’t want to be there again.”
Sperley helped make sure history didn’t repeat. After beating her defender near the end line, she crossed to Macey Hall for a goal from close range.
Three minutes later, Prairie forward Makena Alfson was knocked down by the oncoming goalkeeper in the penalty area. Sperley took the ensuing penalty kick, calmly hitting a low shot inside the right post.
“Just confidence, that’s really all it takes in PKs,” Sperley said. “Don’t doubt yourself. Go up there and put it in the back of the net.”
After a lackluster first half, Prairie needed a spark.
“We all kind of felt bummed out at halftime,” senior defender Lilly Dunford said. “But after (coach Michael Thyron) gave us our halftime talk, we knew we could win it if we played our game.”
Thyron described his halftime speech as blunt and direct.
“I told the girls ‘I’m going to be really straight up with you,'” he said. “You’re underachieving. You weren’t working very hard to get to the balls. Nobody seemed to want to come back at play defense.'”
Thyron pointed out that Prairie hadn’t won a game this season in which the Falcons didn’t score first. To break that trend, they would need to dig deep.
“I said you can either be a statistic or you can make history,” Thyron said. “Which one is up to you.”
An invigorated Prairie had taken the lead, but the team’s job wasn’t finished. Marysville-Getchell pushed forward in search of a tying goal.
“It’s really stressful on the defense, especially because they added another forward,” Dunford said. “It seemed like there were so many of them. But I think we did a good job of staying connected as a team, clearing the ball and getting it out.”
Marysville-Getchell had two late corner kicks, one of which whipped in front of the goal. But the Chargers couldn’t get the equalizing goal.
Having released the weight of two straight playoff disappointments, the Falcons were flying high after the final whistle. Players hugged and posed for photos, then hurriedly sought warm coats.
“We didn’t play our best game, but by the same token we didn’t give up,” Thyron said.