Story by Justin Gimse – Photos by Rocky Ross
It’s certainly no secret that the Puyallup Vikings girls’ soccer team is a local powerhouse. With five state tournament appearances since 2010, Puyallup has been a regular when folks talk about the best in the area. While the five tournament appearances are very impressive, the Curtis Vikings can also boast four state appearances in the same timeframe. Of course, when the two teams meet, the records can be thrown out the window, because it’s a Viking grudge match.
It really doesn’t matter what the sporting event is, when Puyallup and Curtis tussle on the field, court, track or diamond, they’re not just playing to win. Having to share the “Vikings” name with another team just a short drive away is a big deal for the players, students and alumni. They take this Viking business very serious, and this year has been no exception.
When Puyallup hosted Curtis under the lights at Sparks Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 3, the fine print on the game said that the winner would find themselves all alone in first place atop the 4A South Puget Sound League standings. The two bands of Vikings had already tied each other 2-2 in their season-opener, so the winner would also win the season series. With a rivalry feel already baked into the matchup, the bonus of coming out at the end on top of the other eight teams in the league would add some extra fire to the match that would unfold under the Moon’s watchful eye.
Now that the stage has been set for this showdown, we’ll just cut to the chase. Puyallup is a very dangerous soccer team. They controlled the flow of the game for nearly the entire 80 minutes of play on their way to an impressive 3-0 victory. While Curtis truly gave it their all and did everything they could to keep Puyallup off the scoreboard, it came down to being able to do one thing or another with their game plan. They were either going to try and ramp up the attack on Puyallup’s goal, or they were going to pull back into their own zone and try and limit Puyallup’s scoring.
Either way, it wasn’t going to work on this night for Curtis. When the girls from University Place mounted several attacks in the first half, Puyallup was able to counter with quick strikes while Curtis was now out of position. Once Curtis decided to pull back and stop the long runs down the sidelines, Puyallup just continued to pepper the Curtis goal with shots and near-misses. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this game could easily have been a 6-0 sort of affair.
Puyallup got on the scoreboard just over three minutes into the match off the foot of Meredith Udovich. The super sophomore made a blazing run past the right backline of the Curtis defense and hammered a right foot blast into the far side of the net. Just moments later, Curtis had perhaps its best chance at a score when the ball knocked around just feet in front of the Puyallup goal-box, but no one was able to get much of a toe on the ball before the Puyallup defense cleared it.
It wouldn’t take long for Puyallup to notch another one on the scoreboard. Udovich knocked a pass into the front of the goal that was met by the perfectly-timed foot of fellow sophomore Sydney Evans. The score was now 2-0 Puyallup with just over 10 minutes off of the clock.
Curtis would have two more chances at a goal with consecutive free kicks following fouls drawn by Curtis sophomore Ella Brubaker. The first kick was from the 20-yard line, with the second coming from the 12-yard line. Both shots failed to hit the mark, and the Curtis threat was nullified. The two opportunities would be the best chances of the game for Curtis.
Puyallup took the 2-0 lead into halftime and when the teams came back out for the second 40-minute stanza, the flow of the game remained at the capable feet of Puyallup. With Curtis pulling back from their runs up the left side, Puyallup spent most of the second half either in control of the ball, or attacking the Curtis goal.
With four minutes left to play, Puyallup would strike one more time. Udovich lined up a corner kick and sent a right-footed looper about 10 yards directly in front of the Curtis goal. Playing it perfectly, junior Sunny Bieber met the ball with her head and punched it into the right side of the net for the third and final goal of the night.
At the midway point of the season, Puyallup (7-0-2 4A SPSL) now owns a four-point lead over second-place Curtis (6-2-1) in the standings. Sumner (5-2-1) and Bellarmine (5-3-1) are both tied for third place with 16 points in the standings. While there is still several games to be played before the end of the regular season, it’s going to be interesting to see if any teams are going to be able to match the intensity of Puyallup’s game right now.
Next up for Puyallup is a home match against Rogers on Saturday, Oct. 7. Meanwhile, Curtis will be paying a visit to Sumner. Both games begin at 7:30 p.m. On the same day, Olympia will play at Bellarmine at 3 p.m.