Early wins, however, do not necessarily help advance in November.
The Cougars went 3-4-1 over their final eight games, a run that ended with a 3-2, home loss to Galena, Monday night, in the opening round of the North Region Tournament.
“You never want to lose in the playoffs. You want to go all the way to the end,” Spanish Springs coach Mike Faker said. “We knew it was going to be an even game.
Alyssa Kruger put the Cougars on the board first with a highlight reel goal in the 16th minute. The sophomore one-timed a loose ball and drilled a shot into the top-right corner of the goal from 35 yards out.
“Good goal,” Faker said of his sophomore’s tally. “All of the goals were good.”
Galena responded eight minutes later when Brooke Cherry scored her first of two goals.
With the majority of the first half played on the Cougars’ side, Spanish Springs came out of the break swinging.
Makayla Long scored on a header in the 44th minute but was called offside. Audrey Barham added a goal of her own one minute later, but she too was called offside. Five minutes later, Barham hit Long on a cross. Long’s one-timer deflected off the crossbar to leave the game tied at 1-1.
“I thought we had them,” Faker said of the near-miss opportunities.
Not to be denied, Barham found the net again in the 58th minute. That one counted.
Kirsten Lealtad sent a through-ball to Barham but led her too far. The Galena goalie bobbled the ball and Barham opportunistically drove the ball into the open net.
The Cougars held the lead until 10 minutes remained before Cherry added her second goal of the night, lofting a chip shot into the back of the net.
Galena sealed the Spanish Springs fate with four minutes remaining when Kaitylyn Costello, a senior captain, outmuscled a defender in the box and found the back of the net.
Despite giving up two late goals, Faker said his team did not play more defensively in the second half.
“Huge win. A huge team win,” Galena coach Annie Di Loreto said. “I’m hoping it will give us the momentum we need to continue to persevere though the rest of the tournament.”
Spanish Springs (9-4-4) finished second in the High Desert League and is now forced to look forward to next season.
Galena (11-3-3) finished third in the Sierra League and advances to the North Region semifinals against the Sierra League Champion, Douglas (14-1-2) Wednesday.