PUYALLUP — As Sydney Weber walked off the field at halftime, Prairie coach Michael Thyron put his arm on her shoulder.
He had a message for his outside back, who has been a steady presence in Prairie’s back line throughout the season, and a member of a now-historic senior class.
He thanked her for being such a positive influence on the team, and told her she was perhaps the team’s most unheralded player.
In that moment, her coach’s words carried a lot of weight.
“It was nice to hear,” Weber said.
That was the message Thyron sought to convey to his entire group throughout Prairie’s 3-0 loss to Kamiakin in the third place game on Saturday at Puyallup’s Sparks Stadium, as every senior got in the game.
As Prairie trailed by two goals in its last game of the season — and for many, Weber included, the last game of their careers — the realization that the Falcons’ run was coming to an end started to sink in.
It’s not lost on the five seniors what a run it’s been. Four league titles. Four state playoff appearances. A trip to the quarterfinals as juniors. Then this season, to tie the program’s best-ever finish — fourth place.
“It’s really special,” Weber said. “We didn’t think we would make it out of league. From preseason losing every game, being down to Kelso, down Mountain View, then winning. We didn’t even think we’d win our first state game. Then we beat Bonney Lake. Then Mercer Island. It’s really special to be here.”
Added senior Alli Corral: “We don’t necessarily have the most talented team we’ve had before. The fact that we’ve made it this far says a lot about us.”
On Saturday, they felt they simply ran into a better team.
Kamiakin got on the board in the 24th minute. Maddie Morgan finished a shot from just inside the 18-yard box in the upper right corner of the goal, giving the goalkeeper little-to-no chance to save it.
After its first goal, Kamiakin continued to find space in the attack. For awhile, the Falcons defense held firm. They had pressure on the bleeding.
Corral, who finished with nine saves, stopped a hard-hit shot in a crowded box less than a minute after the goal.
Before the season, Corral volunteered to go out for goalkeeper having never played the position before, half-joking at first. The Falcons needed a goalkeeper, so Thyron told her to show up for goalie training. A dynamic multi-sport athlete, she was up for the challenge.
“It was definitely different trying to learn everything,” Corral said. “I ended up really loving it.”
Prairie thwarted another goal scoring opportunity in the 35th minute when Sydney Weber shielded a Kamiakin forward from a ball rolling vulnerably through the 18-yard box. Before Corral could reach the ball, the pressing forward knocked over Weber, and the Falcons were the beneficiaries of a favorable whistle.
But for the second time in two days, late in the first half the Falcons bent to the point of breaking.
After Savannah Harshabrger’s header cleared a Kamiakin corner kick out of the box, Braves senior Bela Nicacio gathered the ball and with her back to the goal, shook a defender off her feet with a step-one, turned and ripped a well-paced shot that Corral got a hand on, but to no avail.
Giving up a goal two minutes before halftime served as a haymaker in the Falcons loss on Friday in the 3A state semifinals.
“It was almost the same thing,” Thyron said. “Christy and I were talking about it. Felt like it was almost a carbon copy of yesterday’s game. Deja vu.”
But on Saturday, it certainly felt like a gut punch, but Prairie knew it was up against what coaches and players considered the most talented team in the final four.
While tears fell for Weber at halftime, and many others after the final whistle, Thyron hopes that in a week’s time, the team will be able to fully appreciate its run this year — and for the seniors, the last four.
They’ll have proof every time they walk by the trophy case at Prairie and see the fourth place trophy the Falcons hoisted up on Saturday.
KAMIAKIN 3, PRAIRIE 0
Goalkeeper saves — Alli Corral 9.
Goals (assists) — Maddie Morgan (Britney Donais), Bela Nicacio (unassisted), Morgan (Paige Savage).
Halftime — 2-0