The Mariner boys soccer team had just won 2-0, but first had to congratulate Lake Stevens on a valiant effort in the 4A District 1 semifinal Tuesday night.
After the handshakes, the Marauder faithful were released to celebrate with their team at midfield. Mariner advances to the state tournament and will play Snohomish on Thursday night in the district championship 7:30 p.m. at Edmonds Stadium.
"It became a tradition sophomore year," senior Cristhian Robles said of the students rushing the field. "Everyone rushed after we beat Lake Stevens in districts. It's nice because during this time of year it gets sunny and everyone is happy and we come together as a community."
This celebration was a little more than a year in the making.
A year ago, these teams met in the first round of the district tournament at Lake Stevens with Mariner prevailing in the 10th round of penalty kicks. The win was overturned two days later, when it was determined that Mariner used an ineligible player. The Vikings advanced to the state tournament after thinking their season was over with the loss. And Mariner coach Vince DeSimone had to do something no coach ever wants to do.
"Last year, we had the same celebration ? We came out with a win, but unfortunately we had an ineligible player," DeSimone said. "I had to tell the guys that as coaches we made a bad choice. We didn't know the rules. We saw the guys all devastated. I had to break the news and it was tough."
There was no devastation Tuesday as the Vikings remain alive, but they'll need two consecutive wins to advance to the 4A state tournament. Their first game will be against Mount Vernon on Thursday night at Edmonds Stadium as the opening act before the final.
The Marauders got a quick strike in the first half to score all the goals that they would need. Silvan Katynskiy played admirably in goal for Mariner, earning a clean sheet.
From start to finish it was a physical game, but the referee chose stern warnings for both sides rather than pulling out cards.
In the 9th minute, the Vikings committed a seemingly harmless foul near the sideline around 45 yards from the goal. Robles stepped up and effortlessly chipped a free kick over the Viking defense where a streaking Elmer Delgado was there to put the ball away with a header.
"I've been doing that all year," said Robles, who plays goalie on an Olympic Development team. "Vince wants me to put it in the box. I'm a goalie, so I know where keepers aren't going to want to come out. So, I just try to put it inside of six (yards out). Keepers don't usually come out especially with the sun."
The Vikings spent the first half of the game, staring into the sun. Goalie Brennen Countryman and his defensive back line played 40 minutes with one hand shielding the setting sun's rays. It was all part of home field advantage for the Marauders, who earned it by winning the Wesco 4A South title.
"I wanted them against the sun,' DeSimone said.
In the 20th minute Lake Stevens nearly had a header goal of their own. James Tanner threw a rocket of a throw-in into the box, but Ahin Ali's shot was just wide of the post.
It was one of the few real dangerous chances for Lake Stevens, which played hard but couldn't take the ball away from the smooth Marauders.
"They just came out with no nerves," DeSimone said of his players. "They just played their game."
They nearly came out of halftime and scored in the first 12 seconds, but one of many big Countryman saves kept the Marauders at bay.
Mariner kept missing its close shots, so Edgar Navarro tried another tack in the 43rd minute.
The Marauder defender corralled a loose ball around the 40-yard line and unleashed a stunning shot that made a straight line for the net and a 2-0 Mariner edge. Lake Stevens could only watch that one helplessly fly through the air.
"He's done that a couple times," Robles said of Navarro. "It's crazy. He's a good player."
It was a big win, but DeSimone insists it just means his team gets to keep playing.
"We don't look toward anything except today," he said. "Some of these kids on the team don't even know what their record is because we don't care about that."
But at the same time the Marauders aren't happy just returning to state.
"We just have to stay humble," Robles said. "But we want more, not just one win at districts."
At Frank Goddard Memorial Stadium
Goals--Elmer Delgado (M) Edgar Navarro (M). Assists-- Cristhian Robles (M). Goalkeepers--Lake Stevens: Brennen Countryman Mariner: Silvan Katynskiy. Records--Lake Stevens (12-4-2) Mariner (12-4-1).
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