By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
LAKE STEVENS — Weather the storm.
That was Snohomish boys soccer coach Dan Pingrey’s message to his team before Friday night’s pivotal Wesco 4A match at Lake Stevens on a clear spring night.
The Panthers might not have been expecting as much of a storm as the Vikings inflicted in the first 60 minutes, but they heeded their coach’s advice. After getting knocked back, the Panthers created just enough of a storm of their own, capping the night with a 2-1 victory in two overtimes.
“They played with high pressure,” Pingrey said of Lake Stevens’ frenetic style for the evening. “They had to win.”
The victory gave the Panthers (12-1 league, 14-1 overall) the Wesco 4A North crown and the coveted first-round bye into the district playoffs. The Vikings (9-3, 9-3-2), already having clinched at least second and a home match with the South’s No. 3 team, had their sites set higher. Winning this and their final two games of the regular season would have given them the title.
The strategy was clear from the start as the Vikings were on the attack, often running with abandon toward the Panthers’ net.
In the first half, Lake Stevens controlled the run of play, consistently putting pressure on the Panthers’ goal, but goalkeeper Ryan Peters rebuffed every attempt that was on frame.
In the second half, the pressure increased, but Lake Stevens seemed to find every way not to score. One shot sailed over the crossbar. Once a forward fell down on a breakaway. Another forward held onto the ball one dribble too long. A header off a corner kick didn’t quite have enough juice to get by the keeper.
Meanwhile the Panthers couldn’t string together more than two passes to keep possession of the ball for any length of time.
Friday night, the Panthers were coming off their only loss of the season, which was a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Mount Vernon and they also without two key starters — Uriel Herrera (suspension) and Brennen Judy (broken collarbone suffered in practice).
“We had to adjust to the way they were playing,” Pingrey said. “I was proud of the guys they made a lot of adjustments.”
One thing that never left the Panthers’ attack was sophomore Blake Crutchfield and his killer throw-in that has helped him lead the team in assists with nine this season. When Snohomish gets close to the opposing goal, every out of bounds is like a corner kick.
In the 58th minute Crutchfield heaved and Juan Machuca headed the ball inside the far post, but the score was waved off by the refereee. According to Pingrey the ref said no player touched the ball before it went in.
In the 61st minute, Machuca found himself wide on the goal line and threaded the ball past Vikings goalie Brennen Countryman to give Snohomish a 1-0 lead
Lake Stevens continued to push until the 75th minute when Michel Zavalza passed to Grant Shultz, who lifted a shot over Peters to level the score at 1-1.
The first overtime passed with no real scares and the second looked like it would as well until Machuca set up the Panther’s leading goal scorer Tyler Mayer directly in front of the Vikings’ goal. Mayer drove home the game-winner in the 89th minute.
Lake Stevens coach Kit Shanholtzer was proud of his team and their fight.
“It’s wonderful seeing a whole bunch of guys working for each other,” he said.
Pingrey couldn’t emphasize enough how important Friday’s game was after the loss, which he described as a mistake in preparation and confusion of the team’s senior night which was played in the team’s second-to-last home game for the first time.
“It’s huge ? winning this is huge having that first-round bye,” Pingrey said.
At Lake Stevens H.S.
Goals—Juan Machuca (S) Grant Schultz (L) Tyler Mayer (S) Assists—Machuca (S). Michel Zavalza (L). Goalkeepers—Snohomish: Ryan Peters. Lake Stevens: Brennen Countryman. Records—Snohomish 12-1-0 league, 14-1-0 overall. Lake Stevens 9-3-0, 9-3-2.