Spartans soccer team slams Knights, extends shutout streak

September 23, 2013

By Neil Pierson

The Skyline Spartans are given free rein to take open shots regardless of their position on the field, and that philosophy helped produce a victory in the team’s first conference match of the season.

Kelli Sullivan’s 35-yard rocket staked the Spartans to a 3-0 halftime lead, and Fujiwara’s 20-yard blast finished the scoring as Skyline dominated the Newport Knights, 5-0, in KingCo Conference girls soccer action Sept. 19 at Spartan Stadium.

Skyline, which is chasing its third straight Class 4A state title, has outscored its opponents 14-0 to open the season with a 5-0 record.

Its defense suffocated Newport for most of the match, particularly in the first half behind starters Fujiwara, Gaby Adamson, Abbey Porter and Abbie Litka. The Knights rarely had possession in their offensive third of the field, and didn’t produce a shot on goal.

“We have a really strong back line,” said Sullivan, a junior midfielder. “We’ve got a lot of hard-working players … which makes us never concede a goal because everyone is working all over the field.”

Skyline dictated the match from the opening whistle. In the 17th minute, Sullivan beat Newport’s offside trap and collected a long pass over the defenders’ heads. Knights goalkeeper Sydney Tomlinson saved Sullivan’s shot, but the rebound fell to Jordan Branch, who finished into the open net.

Amanda Johnston created Skyline’s second goal in the 22nd minute. She tried to cross the ball to a teammate, and a Newport defender deflected the ball with her hand. Johnston scored on the ensuing penalty kick, beating Tomlinson with a low shot.

Sullivan nearly had a goal in the 32nd minute, curling a brilliant free kick over the Knights’ wall from 23 yards. Tomlinson made a spectacular save, but Sullivan wasn’t deterred.

Three minutes later, Sullivan found acres of space in the middle of the field. She launched a shot from 35 yards that caromed off the bottom of the crossbar and in.

“I guess I just was hoping for the same result as I got a couple other times,” said Sullivan, who has scored some similar goals with her select team. “I guess I just kind of got lucky.”

With a three-goal lead at the intermission, Spartans head coach Don Braman was able to substitute freely. Many players changed positions, including Fujiwara, who shifted from defender to forward.

Branch scored her second goal of the match in the 44th minute, sprinting down the left side of the penalty area and firing a 15-yard shot inside the near post.

Fujiwara’s goal came with 10 minutes to play. She took a pass from Aleisha Gable, dribbled past a couple defenders, and struck a left-footed drive that Tomlinson was helpless to save.

“I just had it in my mind that I was going to score tonight, and I did,” Fujiwara said.

Fujiwara is one of two sophomores on a Skyline varsity roster that features 13 seniors.

“I’m the youngest one on the team, so I have, like, 17 big sisters,” she said. “It’s really nice because they’re really welcoming and we get along really well, and it’s really good team chemistry.”

The Knights nearly ended the Spartans’ shutout streak when Julianne Lane rang the crossbar in the 73rd minute. Sullivan said Skyline has been tested by some strong opponents, which makes their defensive numbers even more impressive.

“All of them have challenges, and preseason is hard because it’s like everyone is coming back together for the first time,” Sullivan said. “We’ve definitely been worked, but we’ve matched everybody’s play.”

The Spartans, who have lost once since the start of the 2011 season, were ranked first in the state by The Seattle Times and 19th in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

Fujiwara said the players aren’t interested in outside opinions, but they have been talking about winning another state title.

“That’s our goal from day one,” she said.

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