But in the end the Marauders just couldn't overtake the undefeated Snohomish Panthers.
Snohomish scored on a penalty kick in the 15th minute -- after a Mariner defender was whistled for a handball in the goalkeeper box -- and added another goal in the 60th minute to defeat Mariner 2-1 in a Wesco 4A showdown between the top teams in the North and South.
The game took a drastic turn early on when junior defender Cristhian Robles -- who had already dove to kick away and save one goal earlier in the game -- was sent off with a red card for using his hand in front of the goal to stop a Snohomish shot. Robles, and the rest of the Mariner team including head coach Vince DeSimone, argued that he had used his head to block the shot.
Instead the referee awarded a penalty kick to Snohomish and seconds later Uriel Herrera put it in the back of the net to give the Panthers a 1-0 advantage.
"I don't believe that was a handball," DeSimone said. "He's a great defender. He went with the head."
Snohomish head coach Dan Pingrey said he didn't see the play, but saw his players reactions to it.
"I didn't see the handball. I saw all our guys saying it was a handball. I think he's a keeper," Pingrey said of Robles, who is a keeper for a select team. "I think he did some reaction there."
Despite being down a player, the Mariner team continued to apply pressure on Snohomish for the rest of the half. The Marauders outshot Snohomish in the first half and had several scoring opportunities in the second half as well.
"It's their home field. They were working real hard," Pingrey said. "Being down a man, they didn't go into a defensive mode. We were playing into some of their strengths with some long ball stuff that we didn't need to do. But when you're tired, your brain goes with that. To their credit, they were high-pressure and working hard and playing well. It made for a good, competitive match."
In the second half, Snohomish seemed a bit sharper, and found itself with more chances to score. Tyler Mayer gave the Panthers some breathing room in the 60th minute after taking the ball away from Mariner, dribbling through a couple Marauder defenders and shooting the ball into the net from about 25 yards out.
Pingrey said that at the break he told his team to continue to attack and not get lax against Mariner just because they had one less player on the field.
"We were focusing on, 'Hey, they're a man down.' We need to still play our game," Pingrey said. "You have to match up. You have to match up on players. They were working hard."
As a reward for that hard work, the Marauders ruined Snohomish's shutout with 14 seconds to go in the game. In the 80th minute, Mariner's Edgar Navarro scored from about 20 yards out with a shot that went over Panthers goalkeeper Ryan Peters' head to give the game its final score.
DeSimone was proud of his team for fighting until the end of the game and said it once again demonstrated the resilience the Mariner soccer team has had all season.
"This team never, never dies. They always keep on coming back," DeSimone said. "We can be behind 1-0, 2-0 -- like tonight -- and they'll keep on fighting back. They keep their composure and keep playing the game."
The game featured Snohomish (7-0 league, 9-0 overall), the top team in the Wesco 4A North against Mariner (5-1-1, 5-2-1), the top team in the South. The two teams battled throughout, despite the fact that Snohomish had a one-man advantage over the Marauders.
In anticipation of a hard-fought game, Pingrey said the Panthers had a laid-back practice on Tuesday. Snohomish, playing in its fourth game in six days, had a different focus than usual.
"We knew that we'd be in for a battle," Pingrey said. "Our focus (Tuesday) was stretching because we knew we were going to be in a battle and we couldn't afford to waste any energy. ... They're always good. They've got quality players. Vince has done a good job with this team."
After Wednesday's game, Pingrey said he decided to give his team -- which doesn't play again until Apr. 9 -- a well-deserved four-day break.
"Yeah, they get a little spring break now," Pingrey said. "...They need to rest bodies and minds."
At Goddard Stadium
Goals--Uriel Herrera (S), Tyler Mayer (S), Edgar Navarro (M). Goalkeepers--Snohomish: Ryan Peters. Mariner: Silvan Katynskiy. Records--Snohomish 7-0-0 league, 9-0-0 overall. Mariner 5-1-1, 5-2-1.
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