by Atif Bhatti
TACOMA, WA—(from TacomaStars.com) In a WISL Final that was highly anticipated by fans of both sides, the Stars bested Bellingham United by four goals in front of 743 fans in the jam-packed Tacoma Soccer Center on Saturday night. Both Mark Lee and Joey Gjertsen scored braces while Derek Johnson and Raphael Cox each tallied a goal. Additionally, Tacoma only conceded two goals, concluding their WISL season with a perfect 10-0-0 record.
The opening quarter was certainly that of a championship game, with much physicality and intensity from both sides. Only one goal came in the first quarter in favor of Bellingham, who made sure that a free kick chance at the top of the arch would not go to waste. Brendan Quilici found Sean Connor who calmly slotted the ball in the lower corner of the net. Tacoma had a bevy of chances, even a two minute power play to close out the quarter, but the homeside were unable to score the equalizing goal and the United were up by one through the first fifteen minutes of play.
Mark Lee goal sequence. It gave the Stars their first lead of the night. (Wilson Tsoi)
The chances didn’t stop coming for the Stars in the second quarter, but Tacoma still couldn’t find the back of the net. Bellingham had a penalty shootout opportunity about halfway through the quarter, but Sean Connor’s shot hit the post and bounced away. Late in the first half, Tacoma had a pair of consecutive corner kick chances but the scoring drought continued for the homeside. In the last minute of the opening half, the Stars finally scored the long-awaited and much needed goal from Raphael Cox to tie the game just before the halftime break.
The third quarter was another tightly contested quarter, with chances continuing to fly everywhere for both the Stars and the United. Tacoma had a penalty shootout opportunity late in the quarter, but the Stars were unable to cash in on the chance. Again, the Stars were on the power play for the final two minutes of the quarter. But the homeside were finally able to capitalize on this opportunity. A free kick shot that was initially saved by Bellingham fell right to Mark Lee who scored Tacoma’s second goal of the night as the third quarter clock had just ran out.
Tacoma quickly opened up the final quarter of the game with a pair of goals to expand their lead to three goals. Derek Johnson got on the board for the first time on the night while Mark Lee completed his brace. Although Bellingham was able to pull one goal back off the counter attack, Joey Gjersten’s pair of goals late in the game sealed the deal and the WISL Championship for the Tacoma Stars.