SHORELINE — After a rip-roaring start that saw both sides score within the first three minutes of the match, Lynnwood and Squalicum settled into a stalemate in the latter stages of their 3A District 1 Tournament semifinal on Tuesday at Shoreline Stadium.
The way the two well-matched teams were competing, it was going to take a moment of magic to prevent a penalty shootout being required to decide which side would clinch a state tournament berth.
Lynnwood’s Ryley Johnson provided that flash of brilliance, and the Royals are headed to state for the first time in 31 years.
Johnson, who scored both goals for the Royals (11-6) in their 2-1 win, brought the crowd to its feet with a stunning strike from 28 yards out that left Squalicum goalkeeper Ricardo Solano helpless, and put Lynnwood ahead with 10 minutes remaining.
“As a striker, it’s my job to score,” Johnson said. “Our coaches’ philosophy for us as strikers is, ‘Shoot, shoot, shoot’ and to have the confidence that when we shoot that we’re going to score.”
Even Squalicum coach Joe McAuliffe, who led the Storm to 2A state championships in 2009 and 2014, couldn’t be too upset at his team for succumbing to a shot like Johnson’s.
“That goal was just absolutely beautiful,” McAuliffe said. “He struck it so well that there was nothing our goalkeeper could do.”
The Storm (16-1-1) suffered their first loss of the season on Tuesday night, and will come back to Shoreline Stadium on Thursday to face Shorewood in an elimination game that will start at 7 p.m.
Lynnwood will battle Snohomish for the district championship on Saturday, with both teams advancing to the state tournament. The Panthers beat the Royals 4-2 on April 14 in the only meeting this year between the two sides.
“It means the most to our 10 seniors to get to state,” Johnson said. “We’ve come from being a team that other teams saw as an easy win to switching that around.”
The Royals got on the board first with a set piece straight off the practice field that was executed to perfection.
After feigning an attempt at a free kick about 25 yards away from the Squalicum goal, Johnson sprinted around the mass of players gathered inside the box.
Henry Gonzalez stepped up to take the free kick and lofted a perfect pass which reached Johnson in stride. He headed it past a frozen Solano to give Lynnwood an early lead.
The Royals wasted their early advantage however, committing a foul in their own penalty box just 90 seconds later. Squalicum’s Ale Tomasi coolly slotted home to equalize for the Storm.
Both teams settled into the game after that wild start, with each side taking its share of possession.
“I think it was kind of a tale of two halves for us,” McAuliffe said. “We just weren’t as physical in the first half as we needed to be. They were overpowering us a little bit and beating us to all the 50-50 balls. I was pleased with the boys in the second half, but we’re still in a good spot. They’re anxious to get back here and play again.”
Lynnwood is excited for what’s to come after culminating a program rebuild with a trip to the state tournament.
“We knew it was going to be a two or three year process,” fourth-year coach Pablo Mummey said. “It’s been a change of mentality that has gotten this program to the next level. We’ve been grooming these kids to get to where we’re at right now.”