Practice made for a perfect save.
Countless times, the King’s Way Christian girls soccer team has practiced its defensive setup for dangerous free kicks or corner kicks.
Alyssa Kainu’s job is stand with her left shoulder on the right goalpost. If the goalkeeper couldn’t make the save, maybe the senior defender could keep the ball out.
That moment finally came, and Kainu possibly saved King’s Way’s season.
In the final minute of King’s Way’s 1-0 win over Seattle Academy, Kainu headed away what would have been the tying goal.
In the state playoffs for the fifth straight year, King’s Way advanced to the 1A quarterfinals for the second time with Wednesday’s home win. The Knights (15-1-2) will host defending champ Kings or Vashon, likely on Saturday.
But it might be a different story had Kainu not manned her post.
“I can’t tell you how many times we would practice that setup where I’m on the post and I’m like, ‘I’m never going to get action here,'” Kainu said. “The ball was coming at me and I’m like ‘oh my god, it’s happening.'”
Seattle Academy (11-5-2) had its final chance when its player was tripped about 30 yards from the goal. The Cardinals put all 10 field players in front of the goal and brought goalkeeper Emerson Richmond-Burke forward to take the free kick.
Richmond-Burke’s kick found the head of a teammate, who directed the ball onto goal. Kainu dipped her head slightly and deflected the ball out of danger.
A few seconds later, the final whistle sounded. It was sweet redemption for a King’s Way team that had its season end last year with a 3-0 loss to Seattle Academy in the quarterfinals.
“There’s definitely a lot of satisfaction beating a team like that,” Kainu said. “It’s a longtime rivalry and usually they come out of top. We’re confident but humble. We’re ready for more.”
King’s Way took the lead in the 33rd minute when Bethany Hutchin took advantage of a mistake.
Hutchen intercepted a pass from Richmond-Burke, leaving her one-on-one with the goalkeeper. She calmly converted the chance.
“A lot of times I’m focused on how their body is positioned to find where they’re going to kick it,” Hutchin said. “I try to stay in that area. I was like, OK she’s kicking it this way.”
With a core group of seniors who have played varsity soccer at King’s Way since eighth grade, the Knights have high hopes for this year’s state playoffs.
“This year I felt so much more peace and calm,” Hutchin said. “During the day, I felt this was going to be a good game and that we were going to give it all we can.”
Wins like Wednesday’s only boost their confidence.
“After tonight, we want a ring,” Kainu said. “This team has worked for five years, the core of it. We’re ready. It’s time.”