By Jon Saperstein Herald Writer
TACOMA — The Marysville-Pilchuck boys soccer team had plenty to hate after its 4A state quarterfinal game Saturday at Stadium H.S.
The score, the playing surface and the team’s initial effort were just a few of the loathsome aspects of the afternoon for the Tomahawks after a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Stadium.
One thing that no Tomahawk could hate, however was the view — both literally and figuratively — from the top of the steps of the cement grandstand.
Before the team headed home on the long drive back north on I-5, seniors Brady Ballew and Terance Johnson looked past the field with its bouncy old Astroturf that features corners that stretch onto the track. They sat in the nearly empty stands and looked out over the stadium’s fence to Commencement Bay in one of the most breathtaking settings for sports in the state.
The nine M-P seniors were certainly disappointed that their final high school season just ended, but at the same time happy to have made their third consecutive trip to the state playoffs after a 23-year absence.
“We outdid ourselves (this season). I thought,” said Ballew, who will don a red jersey again, only it will be to play soccer next year for Seattle University’s Redhawks rather than M-Ps Tomahawks.
Despite Marysville-Pilchuck’s (15-6-1) impressive season that included veterans overcoming injuries and new varsity players stepping up, Stadium (17-1) proved to be a buzzsaw that the Tommies could not prepare for.
The Tigers have not lost at home in two years and allowed just a single goal this season on their home turf — a surface that was nothing like the grass football field on which the Tommies normally play.
“We came in here knowing about it,” Ballew said. “It’s hard to prepare for something that is so different. It’s white and black compared to what we’ve been playing on.”
From the opening kick it was clear which team was comfortable and which was feeling its way through.
“I think we kinda came out a little bit intimidated which was too bad because once we started to settle in and have some confidence, we could see that we could hang with this team,” M-P coach Geoff Kittle said. “It took us a half to figure (the turf) out.”
Meanwhile the Tigers took advantage of the Tommies’ uncertainty in the 16th minute for the only goal they would need.
Jamael Cox raced down the left side of the field, looking almost unable to control the ball that rolled quickly in front of him. As it approached the M-P goal line, he dropped his run into high gear and stopped the ball inches before it went out of bounds. In a lightning quick motion he crossed the ball to Dylan Gaydosh inside the goalie box. Before keeper Kyle Bluhm knew what hit him, Gaydosh was heading the ball to the far post where it caromed off and bounced just over the goal line.
It was a tremendously skillful score between the Tigers’ two most prolific scorers, but one that the Tommies should have seen coming.
“We were ball watching,” Kittle said. “We weren’t watching (Gaydosh).
We knew (Cox) and (Gaydosh) linked up for goals all year. If we marked him it would have been no problem and it would have been nil- nil most of the match.”
Cox set up Gaydosh again in the 77th minute only this time Cox wasn’t credited with the assist.
The Tigers played a ball over the top and Cox got behind four defenders in the box with just Bluhm in between him and a score, but one of the M-P defenders tackled him from behind resulting in a penalty kick, which Gaydosh easily converted.
The Stadium forwards put pressure on Bluhm all day, but M-P’s junior keeper had plenty of acrobatic saves to keep his team in the game. The Tigers unofficially held a 25-7 shot advantage.
“They are a good team, but I think we took (Ballew) completely out of the game,” Stadium coach John Baretta said. “We knew about his speed.
He’s a good player. He doesn’t go to Seattle U for nothing.”
The Tommies came away not just impressed with Stadium’s approach but their execution was as good as they have experienced this season.
“Their decisions and their play on the ball was pretty quick,” Terance Johnson said. “Quicker than a lot of teams we play up in Wesco.”
The only team that really gave the Tommies fits in Wesco was Lake Stevens, which advanced to the state semifinal with a 2-1 win over Skyline Saturday, and that means Stadium and Lake Stevens are one game from playing each other for the state title.
“It’d be a great game to watch,” Johnson said.