3 county teams have shot at titles

Oh, so close.

Three local soccer teams got close enough to a state championship last year to taste it. A season after Snohomish, Meadowdale and Sultan came within a victory or two of winning state titles, the three teams are looking to take a bigger bite today and Saturday in Camas.

All three teams started this season thinking state title.

“Actually, we started talking about it on the bus home from Camas last year,” said Meadowdale goalkeeper Eric Marty, whose team beat Camas in the first round of this year’s playoffs to avenge last season’s Class 3A semifinal loss.

Today’s games

At Camas High School Class 4A boys Semifinals Bellarmine Prep vs. Snohomish, 5 p.m.

Class 3A boys Shorecrest vs. Meadowdale, 1 p.m.

Class 2A boys Ridgefield vs. Sultan, 9 a.m.

Snohomish (16-1-2) won the Class 4A title in 2000, and was supposed to have a down year when the seniors from the championship team graduated. In came a talented class of freshman who made a surprising run to the 2001 quarterfinals. Now seniors, the group is looking to improve on last year’s runnerup finish to Richland. The Panthers play Bellarmine Prep at 5 p.m. today for a spot in Saturday’s 7 p.m. title game.

“Somebody asked me, are you going to step out and guarantee it?” said Snohomish coach Dan Pingrey, whose teams have gone to the state semifinals in four of his six seasons. “I’ll say this: Ever since I came to this program, we’ve had one goal – to win the state championship.”

Success has been slightly more recent for Meadowdale and Sultan. Led mostly by a talented group of sophomores, Sultan went all the way to the 2003 Class 2A title game, where the Turks lost to Connell 2-0. Sultan (19-1-0), which won 17 straight games before losing to Lakewood in the district championship contest, plays Ridgefield at 9 a.m. today for a spot in Saturday’s title game.

A few years ago, it would have sounded ridiculous for Meadowdale (18-2-1) to be talking title. The Mavericks qualified for state for the first time in more than 20 years last season before making a surprise run to the semis.

“Prior to that, the goal was always just to make it into the district playoffs,” said Meadowdale coach Darrell Hamilton, whose team plays Western Conference South Division-rival Shorecrest in today’s 1 p.m. semifinal. “We finally cracked through that barrier. Then the goal was to make it to the state tournament. Once the team does it, the goal becomes to go a littler further. … It all leads to winning a state championship.”

All three teams left Camas last year believing they should have been lugging a bigger trophy. Meadowdale, which finished third last year, came out a bit flat in its semifinal, losing to a Camas team that Hamilton believes was not as good as the one Meadowdale beat this season. Snohomish and Sultan dominated much of their title games, but simply couldn’t punch the ball into the net as many times as the other team.

“We were pretty disappointed in ourselves,” said Sultan junior forward Brayton Knapp, who has contributed 28 goals and 10 assists this season. “We want to prove that we can do it this year.”

When Snohomish, Meadowdale and Sultan aren’t on the field trying to win the titles that eluded them last year, they’ll be cheering for the other local teams. Many of the players know each other from club soccer.

“I know a lot of the kids on the other teams,” said Knapp, who plays with Meadowdale’s Colin Kosko on the Lake Washington Crossfire. “I’ll definitely be rooting for them.”

If things go according to plan, there will be three state championship trophies headed back to Snohomish County this weekend.

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