Two wins bring Vashon boys to state soccer semifinals

The team won two games this weekend to advance to the upper echelons of the state competition.

The Vashon Pirates boys soccer team is heading to the state semifinals.

The team won two games this weekend to advance to the upper echelons of the state competition, supported by a large crowd both days, including a large contingent of alumni.

The Cashmere Bulldogs arrived Friday on Vashon full of confidence following a 6-1 win in their first state tournament game, but the team melted against the Pirates. On the opening kickoff, Lewis Thompson passed back to Gavin Keenan to start a 15-pass sequence ending with a Joni Resphigi shot that the keeper dove to tip out.

During that one minute span, Vashon never gave up control of the ball, dropping three times to an open player behind and switching the field six times. That control was indicative of the entire game.

Vashon showed dominant performances from forward Mason Haynes — the Nisqually League Offensive Player of the Year — and from Gavin Keenan, the Nisqually League defensive player of the year, both demonstrating the skill and composure that earned them their awards. (Those awards are voted on by all of the coaches in the league.)

“All season long we have relied on those players,” said head coach Scott Nicolino. “We have only fallen behind a couple of times, but when we do, we needed Mason to score to get us back into the game. … Gavin has also bailed us out at key moments as the last man back, but the most important characteristic he brings is a calm and steady presence at the back. He makes himself available for the drop and the team trusts him. Our possession style would not be possible without that trust.”

The first goal came in the fifth minute from an overlapping run by Oskar CobbMaigetter, playing out of the left fullback position. Avery MacLean threaded a pass through three defenders to find the open space in front of CobbMaigetter, who neatly assisted Lewis Thompson in front of the goal.

“OC (Oskar) made those runs all night long, “ said Ellis Cudaback, one of the senior captains. “He never gets tired. And he played great defense, too.”

Ellis also had praise for Maclean: “Nobody was more important for us setting the tone than Avery today. He is always open for a pass and he always finds the next pass. Knowing he is there allows me and Lewis to take more chances in the midfield.”

Cudaback had two great moments of his own in the first half, assisting Haynes for the second goal at the 15-minute mark and another for Joni Resphigi ten minutes later.

“Ellis has been our ball winner in the midfield all year,” said John Thomas, one of the assistant coaches, “but his contributions on attack have increased the second half of the season.”

Rowan Marceau-Roche forced an own goal for Vashon’s fourth goal, Pierson Fowler assisted August Kampmeier for a nicely worked goal in the 65th minute, and Keenan scored off a corner seven minutes later for the sixth and final goal in a 6-0 victory over the Bulldogs.

On Saturday, Vashon met the Quincy Jackrabbits in the quarterfinals at Vashon Stadium. Quincy played a physical and aggressive game, taking advantage of the wet conditions to shoot from distance, and looking for a mistake from Ozzie Tanner, the Vashon keeper.

Vashon passed the ball well along the back line, but as soon as Vashon passed into the midfield, Quincy pressured and looked to disrupt Vashon’s possession.

Quincy scored first. One of the Quincy long distance shots hit the arms of Jair Valle and the referee awarded a free kick.

“We have to give Quincy credit, “ said John Thomas. “They pulled us out of our shape and took us off our game plan. We’ll have to work on that next week. However, our team deserves a lot of credit as well. It is not easy to come from behind for a win and this is the third time we have done it this season. That shows true character.”

CobbMaigetter again was instrumental in landing Vashon’s first goal. He overlapped and was taken down in the box for a penalty kick that was struck hard past the Quincy keeper by Resphigi. Quincy had clearly done its homework and never allowed star striker Haynes any time on the ball, often double teaming and making tactical fouls.

It is a testament to the balance of the Vashon team that they were able to find attacking options elsewhere, concluding in the game-winning goal from senior Captain Knowler — earning Vashon a 2-1 win.

“The games get tougher every round,” said Nicolino. “We play Royal, the third seed, in the semi-finals next Friday. The home crowd definitely lifted us against Quincy and we hope to get a good crowd in Renton as well.”

Kick-off will be Friday, May 24 at Renton Memorial Stadium at 4:30 p.m.

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