For the Gig Harbor soccer team, maybe the recipe for winning soccer games is to go down 2-0.
After going down 2-0 on May 1 against North Thurston, Nate Jones scored a hat trick to give Gig Harbor a 3-2 win and claim the Class 3A South Sound Conference title.
Fast forward to May 12: Gig Harbor, facing Hudson’s Bay in a loser-out, winner-to-state West Central III/Southwest bi-district game at South Sound Stadium on Saturday afternoon, went down 2-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Julio Vara gave the Eagles the 1-0 lead in the third minute, finding a rebound off the keeper’s hands and knocking it into the top left corner of the goal. Then, Franklin Garcia scored on a perfectly taken free kick just outside the box in the tenth minute, sending the ball over the wall and past the outstretched keeper’s hands.
But Gig Harbor still had over an hour left in the game, and there was no panic from the Tides, who went on to score three unanswered goals to win, 3-2, and secure a trip to the Class 3A state tournament.
Senior Max Frank got things started in the 25th minute with a goal that got underneath the keeper’s hands.
All of the sudden, it was 2-1, the momentum had shifted and Gig Harbor still had plenty of time left to find the equalizer.
“I don’t know if it was my goal — it was just getting any goal,” Frank said. “We knew that down 2-0, we weren’t out of the game. They had two quick goals but we still 60 minutes of game left. It was only a matter of time. We just had a feeling.”
Gig Harbor’s players felt the 2-0 deficit wasn’t indicative of the team’s talent level.
“We’ve come back from two down before in important games,” Frank said. “We knew it wasn’t out of our ability to come back and win this game.”
Gig Harbor (13-0-3) took a 2-1 deficit into the halftime break. In the second half, it was all Gig Harbor. The Tides dominating possession and closed down the space that the Eagles were exploiting in the attacking third in the first half.
In the 48th minute, Nolan Carroll finished off a free kick from teammate Logan Kinney to tie the game. Then in the 67th, junior Jacob Cronk made a run behind the back line and made no mistake with the pass from teammate Trevin Snell, sending the ball into the back of the net and sealing the comeback.
“Trevin just played a nice ball through and I hit it,” Cronk said. “I just knew then the game was ours when it hit the net.”
His reaction? Relief.
“The constant work throughout the game and the goal, it was just a sigh of relief,” Cronk said. “We finally did it. After that goal, the game was ours.”
The goal assured there would be penalty kick shoot-out situation, which was a relief to first-year head coach Joe Ross.
“The way the tournament is set up, that’s a huge goal,” Ross said. “One, what a great confidence builder going forward. Second, we have to play again on Tuesday (May 15). I don’t want to play another 20 minutes and go to penalty kicks. It’s physically demanding and mentally draining. When you’re looking at playing those teams from the King County leagues, we need all the energy and focus that we can get.”
After the win, first-year head coach Joe Ross became a bit emotional while addressing his team.
“When a team goes out and plays with such passion, dedication to each other and executes the plan, it all comes together,” Ross said. “That makes me feel great. They’re playing for each other, playing for the school, playing for the crest that sits on their chest every day. That’s when I get emotional, to see that unity in cohesion in a group and the success that can come out of that.”
Now, Gig Harbor is headed back to the state tournament. Gig Harbor will host Interlake on May 15 at Roy Anderson Field. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
“We’re feeling good,” Cronk said. “With the team we have, the players, skill and perseverance we have as a team, I really think we can do well in the state tournament.”