There are perks to playing a league rival to open the Class 4A state soccer playoffs rather than one you haven’t faced.
Olympia boys soccer coach Ty Johnson hopes the perk pays off when the Bears face 4A Narrows League foe Gig Harbor for the third time this season in the Class 4A first-round opener against the Tides at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Roy Anderson Field at Peninsula High School in Purdy:
There won’t be surprises.
“We both know what each other’s teams do,” Johnson said. “We both complement each others’ styles very well.
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“It’s too bad we have to face another Narrows League team this early (in the state playoffs).”
This marks the first time in the state tournament for the Bears (10-6-3) since the 2008 team made the 4A state quarterfinals in Johnson’s first season.
Two of the past three games featured late-game dramatics to get the Bears to the first round of state. Late goals from Conner Desmond and Jayce Kemp sealed a 3-1 bi-district opening-round win over Kentwood, followed by a 2-1 overtime winner-to-state victory over Curtis behind Chris Sutton’s overtime goal.
Desmond and Ian Hesse lead the Bears’ attack with a combined 18 goals, and Neil Boyal has seven goals and 10 assists.
Wednesday is the Bears’ third meeting against Gig Harbor (14-2-2); Olympia and Gig Harbor tied 0-0 on April 27, but Gig Harbor won, 5-3, in the teams’ regular-season finale May 7.
The Tides finished second in the Narrows League behind Bellarmine Prep, and like Olympia, are balanced offensively, led by Edwin Brown’s nine goals and five assists. They are coming off a 5-0 victory over previously-undefeated Tahoma in Saturday’s state seeding game, scoring three first-half goals in a three-minute span.
The final result didn’t surprise Johnson.
“The score really represents how strong the Narrows League is,” he said. “All of the coaches can attest to that we’re battle ready for just about anybody in the state.
“To beat them, you have to play a game that’s error and mistake free.”