The Difference Makers
Genna Martin / The Herald
Snohomish's Kristian Barney (left) and Lake Steven's Michel Zavalza chase down the ball in the first half of their game Friday night at Lake Stevens High School.
Genna Martin / The Herald
Lake Steven's Brandon Hafenscher (left) and Snohomish's Tyler Mayer vie for the ball in the first half of their game Friday night at Lake Stevens High School.
Entering the season Snohomish was the favorite to win the Wesco 4A North and the Panthers did just that. But senior forward Tyler Mayer wasn't supposed to be the team's leading play-maker.
Well he was. Mayer's 14 goals not only led the team but also the North.
"Tyler's been fantastic this year," Snohomish coach Dan Pingrey said. "He's been fun to watch."
When the Panthers needed a goal he was there and none of the 14 were bigger than his shot in the 89th minute of the second game against Lake Stevens on Friday that clinched the league crown.
"This year he's matured and grown into how he plays and what he does," Pingrey said. "He's not trying as hard. So he's got 14 goals and the majority of them are absolutely brilliant goals.
"He's comfortable and composed in front of the net. He wants the ball. He wants to shoot and when it's all said and done that's what you want out of a goal scorer."
Whatever happens in the playoffs, it likely won't be the end of Mayer's career.
"I really hope he plans to do more and work with a community college coach to get that opportunity at the next level," Pingrey said.
Michel Zavalza | Lake Stevens
The Viking senior wasn't expected to be the best player on the senior-laden squad that perennially contends for the Wesco 4A north crown. He wasn't flashy this season, just consistent. Perhaps he's a microcosm of the Vikings as a team.
"He's a goal scorer. He's got a nose for it," said coach Kit Shanholtzer, citing the seven straight games in which Zavalza scored at least a goal.
"He really loves the program," the Vikings coach said. "He enjoys his teammates and he trusts everyone.
"We have a very non-stereotypical offense. We have some very odd things we try to do. If you trust it a lot of great things happen."
There are a lot of reasons that the Vikings are a threat to make a return trip to the state tournament, including seniors Blake Sander and James Tanner. Tanner is going to play college soccer as a keeper at a Division II school, but plays center forward for Lake.
But according to Shanholtzer Zavalza makes the team go.
"Michel is definitely a difference maker," Shanholtzer said. "Guys try to get him the ball in dangerous locations and it works well."
Sam Roe | Lakewood
Roe is one of two strong goalkeepers for Lakewood, including Gustavo Garcia, last year's all-league goalie. Roe, a senior goalkeeper/defender, helps manage the defense regardless of what position he plays.
"He's the heart of the defense back there," said Lakewood head coach Bryce Barker. "He's just a real versatile player. Such an athlete. He's the one in the back keeping our defense organized."
Roe has been thrust into defensive duty due to injuries on the Lakewood team. But with the Cougars almost back at full strength, Roe appears headed back to the goal, where he has recorded 51/2 shutouts -- he split one with Garcia -- this season.
"We've got two really solid goalkeepers including Gustavo, who was all-league last year," Barker said. "We joke around that if 10 shots are taken against both guys, they're each going to save nine of them, if not 10."
Colin Cuchna | Stanwood
For Cuchna it starts with the socks. A pair of wool, flame-emblazoned socks may not give him his fire but they definitely make the Spartans forward stand out on the pitch.
"I got them when I was really young," Cuchna said of the socks. "My mom was doing the laundary one day before this season and was like 'Why don't you ever wear these anymore?' I was like 'All right I'll just wear them for games.' My teammates were just laughing."
When it comes to soccer, Cuchna is no laughing matter though. Coming off his freshman season in which he scored only one goal, the Spartans forward has scored eight and assisted on five others in leading Stanwood to a 3A North title. This year confidence has helped the sophomore become a better finisher.
"He created a lot of opportunities as a freshman but didn't finish," said Stanwood head coach Kyle Veach. "Mentally he's come in as a stronger game player than he did last year. You knew he was on the cusp of doing something great. He scores ridiculous goals, impossible angles."
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