MUKILTEO — For 40 minutes the Kamiak High School boys soccer team stood toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the state. But in the second half the Skyline Spartans asserted themselves, and now the Knights will have to wait another day to try and get back to state.
Eyal Shechtman scored twice in the second half, and the Spartans used their precision passing to dominate the second half of their 3-1 victory over the Knights in the Class 4A Wes-King Bi-District tournament semifinals on Tuesday night at Kamiak High School.
Tiger Shinoda also scored for third-seeded Skyline (12-2-1), which outshot Kamiak 14-2 in the second half after the teams played to an evenly-played 1-1 draw in the first half. The Spartans, who are ranked No. 4 in the state by RPI, earned a state berth and will face top-seeded Newport for the district title Thursday.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Kamiak coach Kosta Pitharoulis said. “The first half we definitely had the wind at our back. We had a lot of energy, we were excited and played pretty well. They’re a good team, so we were trying to counter some things they were doing. Then in the second half … all the credit to Skyline. They ran us ragged a little bit.”
Koll Pehlivanian scored for third-seeded Kamiak (9-5-3), which still has two shots at qualifying for state. The Knights, who have an RPI of 14, host ninth-seeded Bothell on Thursday in another winner-to-state game. Should Kamiak lose that one, the Knights would have one last shot Saturday in a winner-to-state, loser-out contest. Kamiak last qualified for state in 2017.
“We’re still motivated,” Kamiak central defender Blake Stevens said. “We have to stay focused because everyone on this team wants state, that’s the goal, so if we get a win Thursday we’ll be there.”
Kamiak was every bit Skyline’s equal during the first half. While the Spartans had more of the possession and forced eight corner kicks, the Knights had the better scoring chances, including Aidan Drought thundering a 25-yard free kick off the crossbar in the 23rd minute. Kamiak deservingly took the lead a minute later when Drought clipped a pass over the Skyline defense into the path of Pehlivanian sprinting through the right channel. Pehlivanian powered a low shot into the far corner to give the Knights a 1-0 lead.
But the Spartans got the equalizer just before the end of the half. On a quick counterattack, Eli Jason threaded a pass forward that Charles Gall dummied, allowing the ball to roll to Shinoda. Shinoda managed to stab the ball past Kamiak goalkeeper Weston Joyner to make it 1-1 following an entertaining first half.
Then from the opening kick of the second half the Spartans turned on the style as their quick feet, close control and passing vision proved too much for the Knights to handle. Less than eight minutes into the second half Skyline had the lead. On their 10th corner kick of the game, the Spartans finally converted, Shechtman heading in Tyler Allred’s offering at the near post to make it 2-1.
Skyline continued to dictate play, and the Spartans scored on another quick counter in the 68th minute. Skykline worked the ball to Allred on the right, and although Joyner was able to parry Allred’s shot, the rebound went right to Shechtman, who scored easily into an open net to make it 3-1.
“We were man-marking (Allred) in the first half, which was pretty good,” Stevens said about the difference between the two halves. “But he moved to an outside wing position in the second half and the guy who was man-marking him also went, and that left the middle open and they carved us. It wasn’t pretty in the middle, that’s for sure.”
Drought had a half-chance to make the game interesting down the stretch when his flying volley from a lofted free kick soared over the goal in the 71st minute. But otherwise the Spartans made sure their lead wasn’t threatened.