EVERETT — The Kamiak High School boys soccer team’s roller coaster of a postseason finally came to an end Saturday afternoon, but not without one last dramatic kick at the can.
The Knights gave the Skyline Spartans all they could handle for three-quarters of the game, but ultimately the Spartans proved too much to overcome as Kamiak’s season came to an end with a 5-2 loss in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament at Goddard Stadium.
The 15th-seeded Knights have seen the highest highs and the lowest lows during the postseason, from needing three winner-to-state contests before finally getting in on the last try via penalty kicks, to upsetting second-seeded Union in the first round Tuesday.
On Saturday the Knights trailed the seventh-seeded Spartans, a team that dominated Kamiak when the teams met during the District 1 tournament, 3-2 midway through the second half and had chances to tie it up. However, a combination of Skyline’s quality shining through and Kamiak injuries made the final score less representative of the game as a whole.
”We knew it was going to be a tough one, they’re a very good team,” Kamiak coach Kosta Pitharoulis said. “We saw them just a week ago, and we tried to make some adjustments and it was working. We were feeling pretty good about where we were at, and even down 3-1 at the half we knew we could score goals on this team. So when we scored that early one in the second half we knew this was a game. It’s just they’re good and they keep coming at you. It was a lot to absorb, a lot to deal with, and they just broke us down.”
Dylan Hernandez scored twice while Tyler Allred, Eyal Shechtman and Cameron Yriondo also scored for Skyline (14-3-1), which advanced to face No. 3 Wenatchee/No. 11 Issaquah in the semifinals Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Koll Pehlivanian scored both goals for Kamiak, which finished its season 11-7-3.
“To be honest, I thought we were going to be terrible (this season),” senior midfielder Cade Weatherbie answered when asked to reflect on the season as a whole. “I thought we weren’t going to get past districts. But we ended up going through districts and winning the first round of state. So for my senior year I think that was pretty good.
“And upsetting Union made that four-hour bus ride back pretty cool.”
The Knights changed tactics against the Spartans this time around, making an effort to clog up the middle of the field. Then Kamiak got off to a dream start, getting on the scoreboard less than three minutes into the game. A long clearance was misplayed by the Skyline defense, giving Pehlivanian a free run on goal. Pehlivanian took his shot early, chipping it over Spartans goalkeeper Arnaw Murudkar to give Kamiak an early 1-0 lead.
Pehlivanian scored the opener when the teams met at district, and just like that game the Spartans stormed back. But whereas the wave of Skyline goals didn’t get rolling until the second half in the previous meeting, it came immediately this time around. In the 10th minute the Spartans put together a slick series of one-touch passes on the left to open things up, and a nice dummy by Shechtman allowed Allred to run in free on goal. Allred rolled a shot in off the near post to tie it up.
While the Spartans didn’t create a ton of chances through the first half, they were clinical with the ones they got, and in the 31st minute they took the lead. Kamiak headed a corner kick clear, but Tiger Shinoda slipped a pass past a pushing-up defense to the feet of Shechtman posting up down low. Shechtman turned and slotted the ball into the left corner to give Skyline the lead.
The Spartans made it 3-1 in 35th minute. Shinoda was hip-checked to the turf while chasing a pass into the penalty box, with the referee awarding a penalty kick. Yriondo’s low shot into the left corner gave Skyline a two-goal lead heading into halftime.
But Kamiak got another early goal in the second half to get back into it. Murudkar made a good save with his feet to deny Pehlivanian, but when the ball was put back into the box, Pehlivanian lifted a shot over his own head and into the far corner to cut the deficit to one in the 45th minute.
”It’s the same thing Koll’s shown all year,” Pitharoulis said. “He’s a very dynamic player up front, he tends to have a nose for the goal, he’s a lot of fun to watch, he’s fiery. He’s a player teams definitely have to be aware of and if they’re not he’ll sneak one by them.”
Pehlivanian nearly tied it in the 56th minute after he was played through following Benjamin Webb’s interception and feed, only for Yriondo to make a desperation block on the shot. Then he stabbed a corner kick wide three minutes later as the Knights threatened to tie it.
But Skyline got the killer in the 63rd minute. Allred’s low corner kick from the left skipped through the Kamiak defense, giving Hernandez the easiest of tap-ins from close range as the Spartans restored their two-goal cushion.
Kamiak ended up playing the last part of the game without Pehlivanian and key center back Blake Stevens, both of whom had to come off injured, thus severely hampering the Knights’ ability to mount another comeback. And the Spartans put the final touch on the game with three minutes remaining when Hernandez scored his second after a long clearance bounced over the defense to set him free.