SHORELINE — Shorecrest boys soccer has found its groove.
The fifth-seeded Scots righted the ship late in the season after a 3-5-0 start, winning four of their last six games and topped seventh-seeded Snohomish, 3-2, in a penalty shootout in a district loser-out, winner-to-state match on Thursday. The Scots earned their third consecutive state berth — and the program’s 16th in 20 seasons.
“The beginning of the season was rough. We got off on the wrong foot and we didn’t really know our roles,” senior midfielder Noah Trostle said. “We had great resilience to fight through all the adversity and tough times to come out on top.”
Expectations for the Scots were muddied this season, with a host of incoming seniors returning but Elliot Misic, a 25-goal scorer and all-area first-team forward, graduating.
How does a team replace a dynamic goal-scorer like that?
For starters, there are talented senior attacking players in Trostle — who is the straw that stirs the drink in the midfield — and forwards Matthew Farnam, who was the Scots’ leading scorer this season, according to Shorecrest head coach Drew Thompson, and Alex Zahajko, a set-piece ace for the Scots.
“We’ve gotten production from our seniors, and that’s been key,” Thompson said.
But possibly the biggest revelation up front for Shorecrest this season has been freshman Gavin Vandenberg, who has netted 10 goals this season, according to Thompson.
“He’s been a really great asset,” Trostle said. “It’s awesome to have someone that’s confident and doesn’t shy away from tackles and doesn’t shy away from the guys on the other team. He throws his body around and let’s them know who’s boss.”
In Thompson’s 14 years at the helm of Shorecrest’s boys soccer program, he surmises that Vandenberg is the only freshman he’s coached to reach the double-digit goal plateau.
“That’s tremendous production from a freshman,” Thompson said.
His 10th goal of the season opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, as Vandenberg finished a cross from the right side of the 18-yard box to put the Scots up 1-0.
The Panthers wouldn’t stay silent, as Liam Raney capitalized on a serendipitous bounce right at the top of the 6-yard box and buried the equalizer in the 40th minute, sending a tie game to halftime.
Snohomish eventually went up 2-1 in the 58th minute, as Adam Kowalchyk flicked a ball into the back of the net on a beautiful pass over the top of the defense from Owen Fiedler.
But just a minute later, the Scots netted the equalizer, as Farnam finished top shelf on a header off the throw-in from Trostle.
In the penalty shootout, it was another young up-and-comer, sophomore goalkeeper Gavin Dalziel, who made a major impact, extending left to save Snohomish’s opening penalty shot to set the tone for the following rounds.
Dalziel didn’t start the game between the posts — senior Odoum Nith earned the start, but was inserted into the match in extra time.
“It was kind of keeper by committee this season for us,” Thompson said. “(Dalziel) played a lot of games early for us, and then we went with the senior later on, but we practice those penalty kicks and he showed the ability to save them. And he did a great job and is probably a big reason we won that shootout by making that first save.”
Zahajko, Trostle, Farnam and Gavin McFarlane, all seniors, converted penalties and helped send the Scots back to state.
Snohomish ended its seven-year streak of making it to state. Entering this season, the Panthers had advanced to state 20 of the past 21 seasons.
One of the area’s boys soccer institutions over the past two decades was going to fall short this season.
It was Shorecrest that peaked at the right time to return to a familiar place.
“We’ve had a good run, and I’m fortunate to have good kids,” Thompson said. “There are kids year-in and year-out that are passionate soccer players, just really good soccer players.”