By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — Stanwood and Marysville Pilchuck entered Wednesday night’s 3A Wesco North boys soccer game tied for first place.
Nearly 70 minutes in, it appeared they still would be tied at game’s end.
MP junior Sebastian Navarro changed all that with a goal in the 70th minute and the Tomahawks held off the Spartans in the game’s final moments for a 1-0 victory to take sole possession of first place and remain unbeaten in league play.
“We knew we had it in us, we just had to prove it on the field,” Navarro said. “We struggled in preseason, but we’re coming on great.”
The Tomahawks lost all three of their nonleague games to start the season, but are undefeated since starting their league schedule.
“We have goals versus last year,” Marysville Pilchuck head coach Paul Bartley said. “We’ve achieved the first part of what we were looking for, which was to play better, score goals and actually defend. We’re doing a better job of that than we did in our initial first games of the season.”
Neither team had many chances to score, but Navarro made the most of his, putting in a shot from about 25 yards out between the goalie and the left post.
“I don’t think the goalie saw it coming through the traffic,” Bartley said.
Stanwood head coach Steve Brown confirmed Bartley’s thoughts after the game.
“It’s just a shame our keeper never saw the ball coming,” he said.
Though there is a lot of season remaining, Marysville Pilchuck is the early leader for the rest of the division to chase, including defending league champion Stanwood.
MP sophomore goalkeeper Kole Bradley-Kuk earned the shutout and the defense in front of him allowed the Spartans very few chances throughout the game.
Stanwood senior forward Laurence Wanambisi created more of those chances than anyone, but the Spartans came up empty each time.
“We did a really good job of slowing down their striker (Wanambisi),” Bartley said. “But he had a few chances that kind of scared me.”
Despite both teams having few chances, Bartley said the game plan never changed.
“We still try and run the same system and we believe that sooner or later you’re going to get an opportunity and you have to finish when you have an opportunity,” Bartley said. “Sebastian took advantage of that.”
Before Navarro’s goal, it appeared the Spartans would at least preserve a tie and remain in first place with the Tomahawks. That made the late goal all the more frustrating.
“It’s very disappointing,” Brown said. “Anytime you have a team that works that hard, it’s disappointing.
“It was a back-and-forth game and we had two opportunities right there at the end. To miss those (cahnces) makes it, I think, even worse.”
It was certainly a deflating loss for the Spartans, who now have to figure out how to rebound.
“That’s the question,” Brown said. “How do we rebound? And that’s the exact discussion we had (after the game). It’s not what happened in this game, it’s what’s going to happen in the next game now. That’s what we’re going to focus on. This game is over with.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Quil Ceda Stadium
Stanwood 0 0 — 0
Marysville Pilchuck 0 1 — 1
Goals–Sebastian Navarro (MP). Assists–Aron Galvan (MP). Goalkeepers–Stanwood: Riley Martin. Marysville Pilchuck: Kole Bradley-Kuk. Records–Stanwood 2-1-0 league, 3-2-1 overall. Marysville Pilchuck 3-0-0, 3-3-0.