TWIN FALLS — The magical dream season continued for the Snake River Lady Panthers as they closed the deal with a 2-1 victory over Payette for their first state championship on the soccer pitch.
"The girls did a great job of holding their own, everyone just came out and played together with just a ton of heart," Snake River head coach Randy Turpin said. "It's been a fantastic season and we've just been a team all season long but each one of these girls deserve all the credit for this accomplishment."
Playing without their defensive stopper, Kenna Jensen who was injured in a horrific collision at the end of their semi-final game with Sugar-Salem, the Lady Panthers turned in a stellar performance on the defensive end, holding a very potent Payette squad to just 1 goal on the afternoon.
"What we did in our little pre-game chit-chat was that Kenna went around and gave everyone of these girls a hug to share a part of her with everyone of them and they did it," coach Turpin said. "Payette went to a control game and in my opinion that proved to be their down falling."
Goal keeper Courtney Steinbaugh was a brick wall in net on those rare occasions when the Payette team were able to get a shot off on goal.
"Well when they got that first goal went in on us I knew that we needed to step it up tremendously or there would be no way for us to win today," Steinbaugh said.
Still, the Lady Panthers trailed at the half 1-0 but after a spirited talk at the break the Lady Panthers came out firing on all cylinders, forcing the tempo while attacking the Payette net with a purpose.
Eight minutes into the second half Snake River displayed the deft passing skills that Snake River fans have come to expect as Henrikki Fjaerestad, Stefanie Monschau and Sanni Ryhaenen worked the ball down the far sideline with a series of quick touches.
At the end of the play Ryhaenen drove the ball to the end line and then let fly with a left footed centering pass that caught the Payette goal keeper by surprise as she thought the ball was a shot and played forward.
Cutting through the middle of the defense was Monschau who one timed the centering pass into the heart of the goal tying the game at 1-1.
"At half time I suggested to Randy to put Steffi up and as soon as we moved her up things started to fall into place and we just started playing like the team that we know they are." Steinbaugh said.
From there the two teams battled tooth and nail with the capacity crowd cheering their respective teams on, despite some tired legs from the three day tournament.
For a while it looked as if the two teams may have to go into an overtime period when Snake River made one final rush at the Payette defense.
In nearly an instant replay from the first goal, the Lady Panthers once again scored on a beautiful crossing pass. On the goal Fjaerestad pushed the ball towards the end line and then crossed the ball in front of the goal where Ryhaenen punched in the eventual game winner from about 6 feet in front of the goal.
As the ball tickled the back of the net Fjaerestad and Monschau leapt on their fellow exchange student in celebration as Snake River took a 2-1 lead with just 5 minutes left in the contest.
"It was a very good feeling," Ryhaenen said of the game winner. "I have been happy here. I wasn't expecting that much when we started this year but we have really come together as a team and we always worked hard as we could."
Payette tried to mount one last barrage to tie the game but Steinbaugh and the rest of the Snake River defense was having none of that and as the whistle sounded, the Lady Panthers celebrated their state championship.
"We don't have any state championships in Finland but this is a big deal so it feels good." Ryhaenen concluded.