LAKE STEVENS — Eight years.
That’s how long it’s been since the Kamiak High School boys soccer team last qualified for the state tournament. During that time there’s been plenty of good teams, plenty of near misses, but never that golden ticket to the final 16.
So this has been a long time coming for the Knights.
Kamiak booked its first trip to state since 2009 by defeating the Mariner Marauders 2-1 in a 4A District 1 winner-to-state, loser-out game Saturday afternoon at Lake Stevens High School.
Andre’ Hamilton and Soren Pehlivanian scored the goals as Kamiak (13-5-2), the tournament’s No. 3 seed, built a 2-0 lead, then held on late to beat a second-seeded Mariner team that walloped the Knights 5-0 earlier in the tournament. With the victory the Knights nabbed the district’s second-and-final berth to state.
“Has it been eight years?” Kamiak coach Kosta Pitharoulis asked. “We weren’t sure how long it had been.
“Being an alumni, it’s an extra sense of pride being able to take the team to state,” Pitharoulis continued. “The guys worked hard all season long, they took their lumps against Mariner last time, so it was awesome they were able to rebound the way they did and pull out the win today.”
The Knights will travel to face District 3 champion Olympia in the first round of state. Olympia was an unlikely district champion as the Bears entered their district tournament as the 15th seed, and Olympia has a losing record at 7-10-2.
Not only did Kamiak earn a state berth, the Knights gained a measure of revenge against their Mukilteo School District rival, as Mariner humbled Kamiak in the tournament semifinals with that 5-0 result.
“Last game (against Mariner) we got scored on early and I feel like we kind of gave up,” Kamiak senior captain and central defender Jason Kim said. “This time we didn’t get scored on early, we scored the first goal, and we worked hard until the end. I think that’s how we got the W.”
Edward Katynskiy scored the goal for Mariner (12-5-2), which came one game short of reaching state in consecutive years for the first time in school history.
Kamiak had the better of the scoring chances in the first half, with the Knights twice testing Mariner goalkeeper Brihan Castaneda before Kamiak opened the scoring in the 11th minute.
Kamiak’s Cade Cooke, who was a threat with his long throw-ins all game long, sent one into the Mariner penalty box from the right. The ball was allowed to bounce and found its way to Hamilton unmarked at the far post. Hamilton hammered a shot that blew past Castaneda at the near post, giving the Knights a 1-0 lead.
Kamiak threatened to add to its lead the remainder of the first half. The best chance fell to Zach Stancik, who was in free in the 21st minute following a miscue by the Mariner defense. However, Castaneda went down well to stop Stancik’s shot and keep it a one-goal game going into the second half.
Play evened out in the second half, but it was Kamiak that got the all-important second goal on a well-worked combination play in the 60th minute. Hamilton lifted a delicate pass forward that allowed Stancik to get into the penalty box on the right. Stancik’s first cross attempt was blocked, but on the second try he rolled the ball across the box to Pehlivanian. Pehlivanian took a touch to give himself a shooting lane, then placed the ball into the left corner to make it 2-0.
Mariner responded by pressing forward, and the Marauders gave themselves a chance by finding the net with 13 minutes remaining. Efren Martinez’s corner kick from the right skimmed off traffic in front and fell at the feed to Katynskiy at the far post. Katynskiy calmly tapped it in to make it a contest.
Mariner pushed for the tying goal and was able to create a couple half-chances in the dying minutes, but the Marauders were unable to test Kamiak goalkeeper Jesus Gary, and the Knights are finally headed back to state.