The players from the Auburn Riverside High School boys soccer team walked off the bus and onto the field at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup on Thursday. And they couldn’t help but have a few laughs.
The Ravens’ last trip here was last year — a loss after reaching the semifinals of the 3A state tournament.
“We were looking at the field, and some of us were talking about it. It’s just a good memory now,” Auburn Riverside senior midfielder Brandon Gonzalez said.
“But we were very motivated this time around — we were like, ‘We cannot lose on this field again.’ ”
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So far so good. Gonzalez scored two goals in the first 22 minutes as the Ravens knocked out Kennedy Catholic, 3-0, in the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament.
Auburn Riverside (14-3-0) advances to play Wilson, which beat Prairie in penalty kicks, at 2 p.m. Saturday at Highline Memorial Stadium. The winner earns a trip to the state tournament.
Sparks Stadium was also the site where Auburn Riverside lost its postseason opener last year — in the district semifinals against Central Kitsap.
“We walked into this game with experience,” 14th-year Ravens coach Robyn Saarenas said. “And we have that No. 1 goal we still want to reach. Nobody underestimated the importance of this game.”
Gonzalez put Auburn Riverside up quickly, scoring on a penalty kick in the eighth minute. He then struck his second goal from about 15 yards away in the 22nd. He had a look at another when he weaved into the middle of the field in the 36th minute, but his shot was punched over the crossbar by Kennedy’s leaping goalkeeper.
“He brings a level that nobody else can bring to the game,” senior defender and captain Corey Brinkman said of Gonzalez, a former Sounders Academy player. “It’s kind of ridiculous, honestly, the way he was playing and winning every ball in the air. Every time the ball isn’t near me, it’s near Brandon, the magical little dribbler.”
Gonzalez leads the Ravens with 13 goals and five assists this season.
But the senior midfielder said he’s found his groove lately.
“Brandon is doing that and he’s not a forward — that’s how special he is,” Saarenas said. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself, so I’m actually asking him to freelance and have fun. Sometimes when you take the pressure off, your best games come out. Brandon is realizing the more he uses his teammates, the more he scores goals."
Kennedy had its best look at goal on a penalty kick in the 42nd minute. But Auburn Riverside senior goalkeeper Andy Starkel’s full-extension dive to his left kept the shutout intact.
Keegan Dolan, another former Sounders Academy player, scored his first goal of the season to make it 3-0 five minutes later.
“They are composed,” Kennedy Catholic coach Teddy Mitalas said after his team’s season-ending loss. “They have older players and guys who have played at a higher level. So obviously they kept the ball on the ground more and we panicked. And giving away a penalty kick in the first (eight) minutes hurts.”
Now Auburn Riverside is just hoping to get back to this field for the state tournament.
“We had some flashbacks,” Saarenas said. “That just left a bitter taste with us. So we were a little fired up just being here and having a clean slate this time.”
Wilson 2, Prairie 1 (4-3 shootout): Rams coach Jason Gjertsen wasn’t so sure his team had many chances left.
But despite squandering some key scoring opportunities in front of the net late, Wilson survived in penalty kicks after regulation and two overtime periods to keep its season alive with Jayson Ray netting the match-sealing goal.
“We talked about that at halftime. We said. ‘We have plenty of chances, we just have to execute in the final third,’ ” Gjertsen said. “I think we came together defensively, and we really didn’t give them any chances in the second half.
“I was very confident that if it did go to a shootout that we got some very good people and we got some confident shooters.”
Junior goalkeeper Alek Greenleaf saved two Prairie penalty kicks and then converted a shot of his own to help Wilson’s cause.
“He’s definitely, if not the best shooter, he’s one of the best two or three we have,” Gjertsen said.
Wilson’s Jesse Marks tied the match, 1-1, just seconds before halftime on an assist from Anel Yel.
Pablo Ramos, Carson Losch, Ray and Greenleaf knocked in Wilson’s PKs.
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