Using a pair of early goals, Carson never looked back as the Senators advanced to play Reno for the Northern Division I title with a 3-0 victory.
The chill in the air did little to stop the Sierra League’s second-seeded Senators as CHS got on the scoreboard first.
In the 12th minute, Carson's Kenzie Tillitt took matters upon herself as she darted deep into Cougars territory. With just one defender to beat, Tillitt pushed the ball past the remaining SSHS support to leave her one-on-one with Spanish Springs' goalkeeper Caitlyn Sylva. As Sylva came out to challenge the attack, Tillitt gently sent the ball rolling just out of Sylva's reach to the right and into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Nine minutes later, the Senators were back on the scoreboard.
With the ball at her feet, Senator Michelle Sandage raced down the right sideline before reaching the end line and cutting into the box toward the net. Switching the ball from her right foot to her left, Sandage left the lone Cougar defender in her wake and Sylva the last SSHS line of defense. There was little Sylva could do as Sandage sent a left-footed rocket into the right corner of the net for a 2-0 advantage.
“They have some fast kids and they beat us on those first two goals in a way that we’ve never been beat all year. That was very unusual,” Spanish Springs coach Mike Faker said. “It happens though because like I said, they have some fast kids. They went through our two best backs, which hadn’t happened all year.
Aside from the Senators’ speed, Faker also said their size and strength had an impact on the game.
“I think what got to us a little bit is the refs let the game go. It was really physical. Anytime we received a ball, the girls always had someone on their back hitting them,” he said. “We’re a young team, we had one senior out there to start and played three and on the other side. You have that team that’s big and physical and the referees let it kind of go a little bit. It was just real physical and that didn’t play too well for us. We went after them and tried hard, but we just had trouble with their physicality.”
With the game all but in the books, Carson added a late goal, in the 72nd minute, as Mayra Olivares barely beat Sylva to a free ball and tallied the final goal.
Despite the tough end to Spanish Springs' season, the SSHS coach said the Cougars (11-4-3) have plenty of reasons to hold their heads high.
“As a group, they did a great job this year. If you would have told me at the beginning of the year we would have the amount of kids out with injuries that we’ve had this year and we’d still get our first playoff win and battle Carson in the final four, I would have laughed at you,” Faker said. “They definitely did a great job, especially considering all the adversity they had to deal with this year. It was constant and they powered through it.
“I have to give a lot of credit to all of them, but the glue that held us together was Alyssa Bertuleit. I think she’s the best player in the league and she was just there whenever and wherever we needed her. She made everybody look good. She made all these young kids look good and next year she’ll be hard to replace, but with this experience I think next year is going to be a good season.”