Lake Washington’s Kylie Jones scores the Kangs’ first goal during their 5-2 victory over Central Kitsap on Friday in the 3A state semifinals at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. The Kangs blast into Saturday’s title matchup against Bellevue at 2 p.m. at Sparks. Jones scored twice, and Jen Estes, Alex Mueller (penalty kick) and Anna Schwisow tallied once for the Kangs. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Lake Washington’s Kylie Jones scores the Kangs’ first goal during their 5-2 victory over Central Kitsap on Friday in the 3A state semifinals at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. The Kangs blast into Saturday’s title matchup against Bellevue at 2 p.m. at Sparks. Jones scored twice, and Jen Estes, Alex Mueller (penalty kick) and Anna Schwisow tallied once for the Kangs. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

Lake Washington kicks into state title match

Lake Washington’s Kylie Jones scores the Kangs’ first goal during their 5-2 victory over Central Kitsap on Friday in the 3A state semifinals at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. The Kangs blast into Saturday’s title matchup against Bellevue at 2 p.m. at Sparks. Jones scored twice, and Jen Estes, Alex Mueller (penalty kick) and Anna Schwisow tallied once for the Kangs. Andy Nystrom/ staff photo

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Lake Washington struck first and finished stronger.

In the semifinal, the Kangs knocked open the scoring gate in the 32nd minute on a Kylie Jones goal.

Central Kitsap tied the game in the 42nd minute, but LW went back ahead just two minutes later on an Alex Mueller penalty kick.

Jen Estes padded the Kangs’ lead with a netter in the 57th minute and 20 minutes later, Central Kitsap got closer with a goal to make it a 3-2 game. LW’s Anna Schwisow and Jones tallied late to bring the final score to 5-2.

It was the first time this season LW has allowed more than one goal in a match, and the Kangs have only conceded seven goals all season.

Goalkeeper Natalie Neils said there were some nerves floating around during the game, but the Kang knew she could count on the solid crew of players on the backline.

“I think our defense has really been the main strong point of our entire season. I know I can rely on them and they’re probably the reason that I’ve only had (seven) goals scored on me this season. Nothing gets through them,” said Neils, who gave a self-critique, adding that she can play better.

Double goal scorer Jones echoed Neils’ sentiment about the semifinal being a nerve-racking experience, but she knows the Kangs are prepared due to their vigorous training sessions. They know what’s coming when the ball is put in play, Jones said.

“It was crazy to see how well we worked together, how close our Kirkland community is, see how many people showed up, how hard we worked together as a team. We’re such a close family, it’s just an exciting win,” Jones said.

Mueller said that through team dinners, bus rides, early morning practices and more, the Kangs have formed an unbreakable bond. The strength shines through on and off the pitch, and they stood tall against Central Kitsap.

“We’re a family and there’s nothing that could separate us, that could tear us apart. It’s just the belief, it’s just the bond, and trust,” Mueller said. “When we let in two goals, our forwards weren’t mad at us, and they did what they needed to do to help us out and fortunately we won.”

The day of the semifinal began with a pep rally at school before the team boarded a bus for its journey to Sparks Stadium. Mueller said it was exciting to see their fans and parents get caught up in the special moment as well.

Lake Washington’s supporters filled part of the grandstand at the semi, which felt like a home game, Mueller said.

“We were the home team, but to have our fans here, it just makes it feel like it’s our house and we do what we can to make them proud and show ‘em it’s worth coming out here for us,” Mueller said.

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