By JONATHAN KOTT
The Pirates soccer team finished its historic run through the State tournament with a semi-final match last Friday and the championship match on Saturday, May 25.
In the semi-final, the Pirates were pitted against the Lakeside Nine Mile Eagles from Spokane, a team that went 18-0-1 during the regular season and ranked number one among Washington 1A schools by MaxPreps Sports.
As the match progressed, it was apparent the Eagles played a similar, possession-style play as the Pirates and, in fact, had a slight advantage in possession and passing for the match. However, the Eagles underestimated the skill and explosiveness of the Vashon offense that ran through Tommy Delargy and, as with the other tournament matches, Vashon made them pay with an early goal.
In the 12th minute, Fredy Guitierez intercepted an Eagle pass, flipped the ball over the defensive line, catching Delargy in stride. He easily beat the Eagle’s goalkeeper, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead that held for the reminder of the half.
In the second half, the Eagles’ offense came out with a renewed sense of purpose and put the Pirates on their heels, forcing the defensive line of Ronny Torres, Jeremiah Bogaard, Elliot Eades, Will Hennessey and Chris Fontina to break up waves of Eagle attacks. The Pirates were just hanging on, and the VHS fans were buzzing with anxiety.
With six minutes left in the game and the Eagles throwing players forward seeking the tying goal, Guitierez dispossessed an Eagles player at midfield. He passed to Jacob Heuschert, who quickly found Delargy breaking into space with only one defender to beat. Delargy broke wide, cut back to create space and the defender, beaten, had no choice but to trip him in the box for a penalty kick opportunity. Heuschert stepped up to take the kick, and with a slow run up that forced the keeper to commit to his left, he calmly stroked the ball into the right side netting. Vashon found the second goal it needed, and the nail biting, cat-and-mouse match ended with Vashon’s first trip to the championship match.
Vashon’s opponent in the final match was Winlock/Toledo United, a team that was 18-0-4, outscoring their opponents 93-9 in the regular season.
The United team featured a goalkeeper who stopped 20 shots in the semi-final match and an offense that played vertical, break-away style. But unlike in the semi-final, the Pirates took control of the game from the start. The United’s weak midfield, unused to defensive play, conceded acres of space to Vashon’s midfield, allowing the Pirates to methodically work toward the United goal and put the keeper under pressure within minutes of the kickoff. Vashon’s midfield and defense consistently denied United of first touches and snuffed out any hint of breakaways. United was inflexible in its defensive set, keeping only two defenders back. As a result, Vashon forced the keeper to make six heroic saves in the first 20 minutes of play.
In the 24th minute, after United started to find offensive pressure, Vashon keeper Richard Rivas put a goal kick down the center of the field. The ball bouncing on the wet surface skipped by and over players before team assist leader Heuschert controlled the ball and passed to Delargy, who dribbled into the box, put the ball on his right foot and fired it past the keeper from 10 yards out: Vashon 1, United 0. One minute later, United’s star player, Andreas Malunat, found himself alone in the Pirate box and fired a shot that beat Rivas but ricocheted hard off the right post and back in Rivas’ hands.
After a spell of offensive pressure by United, the Pirates regained control when Heuschert made a neat pass to Delargy at the top of the box; he backheeled a pass to Finley Oswald. He took the ball on his left foot and fired it off the crossbar. The ball fell to Delargy in the center of the 6-yard box. Delargy chipped the ball high and left to Bellamy Cox-Sitkiewicz, who headed the ball down into the left corner of the goal, giving Vashon a 2-0 lead that held to the half.
Vashon dominated the first half with 10 shots on goal to United’s two. Vashon controlled 56% of possession and completed 169 passes off 300 first touches. United only managed to complete 69 passes off 200 first touches.
The second half played out much like the first half. Vashon continued to control to play in the midfield and made repeated threatening offensive runs on the United defense. Winlock managed more offensive pressure in the second half and had four shots on goal in the second half, but the Pirates dominated possession in United’s half of the field. Delargy was able to roll up on the fullbacks with ease as United refused to change its defensive set. The game was reduced to the Pirate offense versus the United keeper, who made nine more saves in the second half. The United team’s frustration grew as its star player, Malunat, was denied touches. The fouls started to mount, and Vashon slowed its game but still found scoring opportunities.
In the 70th minute, Guitierez started a counter attack, passing to Heuschert at midfield. Heuschert took the ball 30 yards through defenders into the box and fired a low, hard shot that was the keeper batted away right to Delargy. He collected the ball and fired a shot into the upper corner of the net. The score was 3-0 Pirates, and the championship seemed assured. With time running out, United clawed back a goal to make the score 3-1. Too little too late. Vashon played out the clock to earn its first state championship in dominating fashion.
The game made it into the Tacoma News Tribune and The Seattle Times, which quoted Cox-Sitkiewicz.
“Probably no one expected us to be here. But the underdogs made it into the championship game, and today we were just much better,” he said.
The Times also quoted Coach Ben Bork, who has coached the team for six years.
“We’ve been telling them that it’s going to take just one lucky team to get through, and we were that team,” Bork said.
— Jonathan Kott is the father of a Pirate soccer player.
The Vashon Pirates were one of two island teams to win a state title on May 25; they were joined by the Vashon Vultures, a club lacrosse team.
At press time, a parade, from Ober Park to the Vashon Theatre, celebrating the achievements of both teams was slated for about 6:45 p.m. Thursday, May 30, according VHS Principal Danny Rock. The parade will step off when traffic from the 6:15 p.m. ferry is passed. However, alternate parade plans are also circulating. Those who attend should confirm parade details via email and social media before heading out.