The VHS boys’ varsity soccer team gathers to celebrate after winning the league championship (Lila Cohen Photo).

The VHS boys’ varsity soccer team gathers to celebrate after winning the league championship (Lila Cohen Photo).

Vashon Varsity Soccer Takes League Championship

“Our mentality and fitness levels were the key factors in our win.”

  • Thursday, May 13, 2021 2:50pm
  • Sports

By Lila Cohen

For The Beachcomber

On May 5, the VHS varsity boys’ soccer team faced off against Seattle Christian for a spot in the league championships.

The game kicked off and it was quickly apparent that Seattle Christian was a noticeably better team than when Vashon played them earlier in the season and won 9-0. It wasn’t until the 22nd minute that Vashon scored. Junior Teo Eckhardt played the ball to sophomore Nick Zuckerman, who relayed it to senior Zach Van Dusen. Van Dusen passed it back to Zuckerman who gave a through ball back to Van Dusen, who was making a run into the box. Van Dusen headed the ball into the net, bringing the score to 1-0.

Vashon didn’t score the remainder of the half. During halftime, seniors Chance Mentink and Manny Pereyda were honored in a brief “Senior Night Part Two” as they weren’t able to attend last week’s Senior Night. Then, the second half kicked off.

Spectators held their breath when in the 13th minute Seattle Christian got a breakaway. Vashon defender sophomore Eythan Hyllested shadowed the Seattle Christian player and Vashon keeper junior Evan Keppler stepped up to slide tackle. The referee deemed the tackle as a foul and both Vashon and Seattle Christian players set up for a free-kick. Vashon formed a wall, and Keppler saved the shot — successfully denying Seattle Christian a goal.

Vashon scored their second goal just minutes later. Senior Jakob Heuschert received the ball from Zuckerman, turned, beat multiple Seattle Christian defenders, and took a low, hard shot that sailed past the opposing keeper.

Junior Levi Stahl scored Vashon’s third goal in the 17th minute off of a pass from Zuckerman. Vashon scored once more with just two minutes on the clock. Seattle Christian fouled a Vashon player on a breakaway, drawing a free kick 30 yards from goal for Vashon. Heuschert took the kick and placed a technically perfect ball that arced into the top right corner of the net. The whole team amiably celebrated the shot — Heuschert’s last goal of his high school career in front of a home crowd. The whistle blew moments later.

On May 7, Vashon traveled to Marymoor Park to play the Bellevue Christian Vikings, just as they had six weeks ago when they competed in their first game of the season. The outcome of that game, on March 19, was a heartbreaking 3-2 loss for Vashon. It had been the first time the varsity team had stepped onto the field in two years due to COVID-19, and they had been missing key players due to injury and ineligibility. The loss served as motivation for the rest of the season — one that Vashon went on to dominate, winning every other game they played.

Players also consider Marymoor Park “cursed” — a venue where luck just hasn’t been on the Pirates’ side. After too many shots that hit the crossbar, unfair referee calls, and unlucky weather patterns, it was the day to break the curse. Emotions behind the season-closing game were high. As Heuschert put it simply, “There was definitely a lot of passion.”

The game kicked off and within 10 minutes Vashon scored. Senior Chris Fontina took a throw-in and delivered his signature arcing throw into the box. The ball fumbled around but Van Dusen was able to deflect it to senior Alec Macomber-Straight who took a shot that sailed past Bellevue’s keeper. The outpouring of celebration for this senior-led goal-scoring play cleared the rain clouds away bringing momentary sunshine and a lasting lead. Bellevue fought hard and had a few strong goal-scoring opportunities but Vashon was playing with something to prove. The half ended with a 1-0 lead for Vashon.

Not long into the second half, Vashon grew their lead. Junior Bellamy Cox scored a low shot from the left corner of the goal box off an assist from Heuschert. His goal brought the score up to 2-0, Vashon. Cox’s goal was a turning point, and as Bellevue tired, Vashon scored again. The ball was fumbled around at the top of the box and Zuckerman was able to thread the ball through to junior Jaime Pereyda who shot low and hard into the back of the net.

Less than ten minutes later, Heuschert weaved through Bellevue’s defensive line, with quick footwork in the box before finding the opportunity to slip the ball into the back of the net. Heuschert scored Vashon’s fourth and final goal of the game, resulting in an outcome that was the complete inverse of the girls’ league championship.

When the final whistle blew — signally the end of the game, season, and the end of the high school careers for the seniors (who make up nearly half of the varsity team), the players celebrated their victory and the end of their season.

“Regardless of their pressure and physicality, our mentality and fitness levels were the key factors in our win,” Heuschert said.

VHS soccer head coach, Scott Nicolino, also celebrated. “This talented group of players had everything you are looking for from a championship team — offense, defense, time of possession and depth,” he said, adding extra praise for other coaches who worked with the players throughout the years. “[The team’s] success this season would not have been possible without that guidance and direction throughout the years.”

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