One bad bounce.
And one the Stadium High School boys soccer team will remember all offseason long – and its 13 seniors likely longer.
“The ball had been bouncing our way the whole season,” Stadium’s first-year coach Raphael Cox said. “And for it to bounce against us in the most important moment is gut wrenching.”
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It was inconspicuous. A volley from about 25 yards away on the right hash and Stadium’s freshly subbed goalkeeper, Ethan Saarenas positioned himself in front for the save.
But he bobbled the catch, and the ball – like it had been paid by visiting West Seattle – took a twisted turn and dropped not much more than a step behind Saarenas.
It was the Tigers’ first loss of the season and it came in the final two minutes of double overtime, 2-1, against West Seattle on Tuesday at Mount Tahoma Stadium in the first round loser-out match of the 3A state playoffs.
Stadium was the top-ranked team in 3A after entering 17-0-0 and fresh off the 3A Pierce County League title and was No. 14 in the nation in Top Drawer Soccer’s spring rankings.
“We’re a Cinderella story,” said West Seattle’s Alex Coronado, who scored both of the Wildcats’ goals. “And to come in and knock off the No. (14) team in the nation, it feels great.”
Stadium looked like the dominant program it has been all season in the first half.
Kendall Burks, the 3A PCL’s defensive player of the year, bended it like Burks in the 17th minute. His free kick from the left hash mark on the 28 yard line curved right to left and was out of reach of West Seattle’s keeper, careening off the right post and in for a 1-0 Stadium lead.
The junior defender turned, sprinted toward the stands and pointed toward the Stadium cheer section before being mobbed by teammates.
Cox said that not even in his own soccer playing career that took him from Highline Community College to the University of Washington to Real Salt Lake and an MLS Cup did he have many goals like that.
“That was a great shot,” said Cox, a 2004 Stadium graduate. “He put us in a great spot to win this game and he put us in great spots all season.”
But Coronado had about as equally pretty of a goal.
Stadium’s starting goalkeeper, Ryan Naylor, slid and missed the ball on a potential save attempt and the ball found Coronado in front of the goal. He was about on the seat of his shorts when he got his right foot on the ball and volleyed it back over his head just over two Stadium defenders and into the upper corner of the net.
“That turned our whole mindset,” Coronado said. “The momentum switched and their crowd got silent and we ended it.”
But other than that one mistake, Naylor had played well in front of the goal. He’s headed to Simon Fraser in the fall and will play football there.
His best save in the 38th minute when he leaped and punched a sure West Seattle goal over the cross bar. He had four saves in the match.
But in the final two minutes of the second five-minute overtime period, with penalty kicks looming, Cox chose to sub in Saarenas. Cox had rated Saarenas as their better option for saving PKs.
“I put him in a tough position,” Cox said. “Not a lot of warming up or anything. And the one ball he had to deal with went by him. I put him in a really tough spot and that was my fault.
“To let down those fans who had been supporting us the whole year – it’s disappointing. But I can’t fault the guys’ effort. The effort was there, the leadership was there, the attitude was positive. In this game the ball bounces for you and it bounces against you and this time it bounced against us and I take full responsibility. I’ll learn from that.
“It’s just too bad I have to learn that at the expense of those seniors.”
Stadium’s loss was one of an onslaught of South Sound soccer teams falling in the first round.
Peninsula was the other West Central District 3A league champion (taking the 3A South Sound Conference). But it lost in penalty kicks to Garfield on Tuesday.
In 4A, Mt. Rainier, Sumner and Tahoma all fell, and so did Fife in 2A. Though Gig Harbor advanced to the 3A state quarterfinals with a 4-2 win against Squalicum and Charles Wright edged King’s to secure a spot in the 1A quarterfinals.
But West Seattle has played in a staunch 3A Metro League all season and coach Kyle Nothstein, a graduate of Graham-Kapowsin, said that helped the Wildcats against Stadium.
“They are a good team,” Northstein said of Stadium. “But compared to the other teams we’ve played … we’ve played a lot of tough teams this year. So for us this was just another challenge.”
Stadium made its first state appearance since 2013 and was hoping for its first state win since heading to the semifinals in 2011 after winning the state title in 2010.
“It’s sad for our seniors and I feel bad for those guys because it was their last chance,” Cox said. “But hopefully the young guys learn from this and we can move forward.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677