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Tiger soccer: Regional champs!

by Chuck Smock, sports editor

It may have been the perfect game.

And the timing certainly couldn’t have been any better.

The Douglas girls dominated a talented Reed Raiders squad, 2-0, on Saturday at Reed High to win their first 4A Northern Region soccer championship.

Junior midfielder Kali Schmidt scored both goals to help the Tigers complete a remarkable run that included an 11-0-1 record in their last 12 games.

“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” Schmidt said moments after the final whistle. “We talked before the game and decided there’s no reason to play so hard all year long and not win it in the end. I think we played one of our best games of the season.”

Douglas started fast and never slowed down against a Reed team that easily disposed of Carson, 3-1, in the semifinals.

The Tigers created four quality scoring opportunities in the first 20 minutes of the game. Reed goalkeeper Jen Mavis saved shots by Tracey Hawks in the 10th minute and Schmidt in the 15th minute.

Jessica Girdner hit the crossbar with a shot 18 minutes into the contest and sent a shot over the crossbar two minutes later off a corner kick from Lindsee Porter.

Schmidt finally broke the scoreless tie in the 31st minute.

Amber Gwinn, who also had the game-winning assist in the Tigers’ 1-0 win over Galena in the semifinals on Thursday, made a perfect pass to Schmidt in the middle of the Raiders’ penalty box. Schmidt calmly settled the ball, sidestepped a defender and then chipped a shot over Mavis and into the net.

“Getting a goal early, especially with them knowing we’re such a strong team in goal and in the back end, I think put a lot of pressure on them,” said Douglas coach Fred Schmidt, whose team posted three consecutive shutouts in the Region tournament. “Even when we were up 1-0, we kept trying to attack, we kept fighting. We didn’t get defensive at all. Even when we got the second goal, we were trying for a third.

“This team has improved and matured all year long and tonight they put together their best game of the year.”

Leading 1-0 late in the second half, the Tigers got a brief scare when a Reed corner kick bounced around in the Douglas penalty box for a few seconds before goalkeeper Ashley Sulprizio could pounce on the ball.

The Tigers counter attacked right away, however, and Schmidt finished the play by dribbling past two defenders and drilling a low shot past Mavis with five minutes to play.

“The first goal definitely put me at ease,” said Sulprizio, who made 25 saves in three games in the Region tournament. “After we got the second goal, I looked at the clock and said, ‘Oh, thank God.’

“We came out and we just dominated. We played our game. It was awesome. I totally give this game to my defense. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have pulled it off. They deserve all the credit they can get.”

Senior stopper Kelsey Newell, along with junior sweeper Kristie Gearty and sophomore fullbacks Rebecca Wallstrum and Jessica Brady were nearly perfect against a Reed front line that features two of the fastest players in the North in Sherika Hardaway and Sierra Malan.

For Newell, Sulprizio and fellow seniors Abby Aldrich and Jessica Haltom the victory was especially sweet.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Newell said. “I just wanted to go out and have fun. It’s my senior year, my last game.

“My sophomore year, we got knocked out (of the playoffs in the) first round. Last year, we got knocked out second round. This year we took it. It’s such an honor. I’m glad I had the team I had to do it with. It’s just overwhelming. It’s incredible.”

Girdner, a junior midfielder who along with Kali Schmidt helped the Tigers control the middle of the field, said she and her teammates weren’t intimidated at all about the prospect of playing the Raiders for the Region title on their home field.

“They’re a good team and they deserve that respect, but I think we played a good game and that’s what we expected to do,” Girdner said. “I think we outplayed them a great part of the game. We were more aggressive and I think we played a better game than we did against Galena (in the semifinals).

“This is pretty awesome. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl.”