The road to a fourth Class 4A state soccer title in five years was anything but easy for the Skyline Spartans.
Their first opponent was Union, winner of the West Central/Southwest District championship. Then there was SPSL South winner Puyallup, and their northern counterpart, Tahoma.
But one by one, the Spartans checked them off their to-do list, concluding with a 1-0 shutout of rival Issaquah on Saturday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Skyline coach Don Braman. “We had such a phenomenal run, but then you look at the bracket, and my goodness, we couldn’t have had a harder route.”
The lone goal of the night came in the 14th minute as a pair of sophomore forwards teamed up to get Skyline on the board. Amanda Johnston crossed the ball to Izzy Marshall, who shot it past Issaquah sophomore Tala Fry from about 10 yards out.
“It was a wonderful cross by Amanda,” Marshall said. “I just saw the opportunity and one-footed it with my left foot and took my chance.”
Marshall added with a laugh that she didn’t realize what she had done until the crowd cheered.
“I was just focusing on getting into the goal,” she said. “(Then) I was like, ‘Oh, I scored!’ ”
Issaquah’s best scoring opportunity came in the 53rd minute when junior forward Juliana da Cruz shot the ball from 30 yards out to senior midfielder Morgan Zack near the left side of the goal. Zack’s ensuing attempt slid into the right but was blocked by junior Emily Baril, who earned the shutout.
Braman, whose team also captured state championships in 2008, 2009 and 2011, said that the key to this victory was knowledge of the game.
“These girls really understand how to manage games,” he said. “They understand that games have an ebb and flow, and they make those adjustments and work at it.”
Issaquah coach Tom Bunnell said that he expected the game to be decided by whichever team scored first. The Eagles handed the undefeated Spartans their only tie of the season, a scoreless decision.
“This game was going to come down to who got the goal, and then they’d have to fight,” he said. “We threw people up; we switched people around; but they got an early goal.”
Also complicating matters for Issaquah was that that star midfielder, senior Audrey Thomas, was clearly bothered by a knee injury sustained in the quarterfinals.
Still, Bunnell said, he enjoyed resurrecting an “amazing rivalry” for the biggest game of the year.
“This isn’t bitter,” he said. “We were both going for our fourth (title) and they’ve had an incredible run.”
Columbia River 2, Mount Spokane 1: Columbia River won its first 3A title since 2009 with the victory over Mount Spokane of Mead.
Emily Heaton’s winning shot, an 18-yard strike into the lower right side of the goal, came just two minutes after Mount Spokane senior defender Alyssa Lloyd tied the game by converting a 15-yard volley into the left corner.
“Madison Reynolds shot it, and it bounced off another player,” said Heaton, a sophomore midfielder. “I was just sitting at the top of the 18 and it was just there. I was so shocked, and then I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to go for it.’ ”
Sophomore Marion Lilly opened scoring for Columbia River on a 6-yard sliding shot in the 25th minute.
Filomon Afenegus said that winning the state tournament in his first year as the Chieftains’ coach “feels surreal.”
“I told them it was going to come down to guts and determination,” he said, adding that his team escaped with a 2-1 win in a semifinal shootout with Liberty. “And it was just sheer will. I was very impressed.”