Pirates boys soccer takes fourth at state

“We learned a lot from these tough games in the state tournament.”

The Vashon Pirates lost two games over the last weekend of May to take fourth place in the 1A State Tournament, falling 1-0 to Royal High School on May 23 and 5-2 to Cascade High School (Leavenworth) on Saturday.

In addition to the disappointing losses, the weekend was marred by poor fan behavior, with allegations by the tournament director of referee abuse from Vashon supporters.

On Friday, Vashon met Royal in the state semifinal game in an offense vs defense style of play. Vashon controlled possession at the start, as they have all season. Royal sat off in a mid block, giving little pressure until the ball reached the mid-field, and then Royal swarmed.

“I couldn’t find a lane,” said Rowan Marceau-Roche, who nearly scored early with a strong left-footed shot from the top of the box bouncing off the woodwork.

“Rowan played with a lot of energy, especially at the end,” said Isaac Newcomb, who won the Sportsmanship Award for the game. “We are used to scoring a lot of goals. We don’t have a lot of experience playing against teams that cut out all of the passes.”

Gavin Keenan, the Nisqually League Defensive Player of the Year, shared that sentiment: “We did not plan to go long so much, but we could not find the forward passes.”

The game was at a stalemate until the middle of the first half, when Royal won a corner kick and managed to find an open player on the far post after a scramble near post.

Vashon gradually increased the pressure, but did not really look dangerous until the final fifteen minutes. Marceau-Roche again had the best chance with a clever pass from Newcomb, but the keeper cleaned it up.

Then, with the clock striking zero, Vashon won a corner and it was expertly taken by Newcomb, again connecting with Marceau-Roche for a one-touch finish. The referee, however, called it back, as Royal was still subbing and the referee had not restarted play.

After Friday’s disappointment, the Saturday game had more of an atmosphere of a “friendly,” a game in which it’s not too important who wins or loses. Cascade took advantage early with a simple chip over Vashon’s back line to score shortly after two minutes. Unlike Friday’s game, however, Vashon responded almost immediately with a rocket of a shot from well outside the box from Oscar Cobb-Maigetter.

After that, it was mostly a story of Vashon’s ball control and quick passing against Cascade’s speed. Vashon scored another goal fifteen minutes later, and a shot from Joni Respighi was deflected by the keeper to Lewis Thompson, who slotted it in calmly to put Vashon up 2-1.

After that, Vashon had the run of play, but ran out of steam, and Cascade’s speed eventually gave them the edge. They scored again halfway through the second half and then three more as the game wound down, with Vashon players visibly tired and no longer up for the fight.

“We have a young team and they have fought hard this season,” said Head Coach Scott Nicolino. “We set high expectations and planned to get first place, so fourth feels disappointing, but if you look at it objectively, we did great this year.”

“We learned a lot from these tough games in the state tournament,” Assistant Coach John Thomas added. “Next year, the league will allow us to play only a single game against our league opponents, so we will look to add tougher competition earlier in the season. We will miss our graduating seniors Orion Knowler, Ellis Cudaback, Ferdinand Escovedo, and Sayan Pernick. It was a good year for those guys, and they should be proud of winning 19 games, and (of) their contributions to teaching the younger players so that they will be stronger next year.”

Shanti Escovedo is the development director of the Vashon Soccer Club.