Just before overtime began in Saturday’s Central Section Division I championship at Clovis East, Timberwolves junior Peyton Kwalwasser was encouraged by her coach to be a game changer, to take a shot.
But from inside that oak tree, darn near on Ashlan Avenue? Really?
From at least 25 yards with a left-to-right angle? Seriously?
“You can’t score if you don’t shoot,” said Kwalwasser, who hooked the laser inside the right post a minute into the second 10-minute extra period, and it held up as top-seeded Clovis East captured the first section title in the program’s 16-year history with a thrilling 3-2 win over No. 3 Clovis before nearly 3,000 fans on a 70-degree day.
“I saw the space and I knew I had a little time,” Kwalwasser said. “My coach and basically everyone on the field were screaming at me to shoot the ball. I had to take a chance.”
Timberwolves coach Jasara Gillette promoted the shot – any shot – for Kwalwasser, one of Northern California’s elite players.
“I have been telling her to hit the shot and trust herself,” Gillette said. “And right before the overtime I told her to be a game changer, that’s she’s done it before and can do it again. I told her to take the long shot, to trust herself, and she did it at the right time.”
Kwalwasser also scored on a first-half penalty kick and her junior tag-team power partner, Nikki Couch, scored on an expertly timed shot in the second half when Clovis goalie Callie Thiesen came out to challenge her as the Timberwolves improved to 20-0-3.
Clovis East, which had also defeated Clovis 2-1 and 1-0 while going 9-0-1 in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, advanced to a Southern California Regional match March 8. Seedings and first-round sites will be determined March 6.
Clovis (16-6-3) tied it 2-2 in the final minutes of regulation when Elyanna Dittmann controlled a loose ball in a crowd a few yards from the goal and pounded it in.
The Cougars took a 1-0 lead when Stacia Williams intercepted a pass and fired from 20 yards out on the right wing.
“It was definitely a championship match,” Clovis coach Vanessa Black said. “(The Timberwolves) as a whole are a very athletic, talented group. My hat’s off to them and with all respect. They played phenomenal.”
The Cougars went 0-10 in the TRAC a year ago.
“Huge, huge turnaround,” Black said. “I’m very pleased.”
Clovis East figures to be back, having only two seniors and an all-freshman back line of Macey Merlo, Keska Turner and Tori Solley.
Kwalwasser, Crouch and yet another junior, Mia Castillo, play year-round for Gillette, including the off-season Central California Soccer Alliance.
“We also went 10-0 in that league, so they have confidence,” Gillette said. “Coming into a match like this is a natural for them.”