PUYALLUP — Even though the Snohomish boys soccer team has had a recent tradition of success, there was a bit of trepidation among the Panthers at the start of this season. An accomplished, decorated senior class graduated the previous spring, leaving behind a group of players who were going to be asked to fill new roles.
Snohomish coach Matt Raney knew his first challenge would be to get his players to leave their fears behind and embrace the challenges in front of them. He told them to dream a dream so big that it actually scared them.
The dream they aspired toward all season was a chance to play for a 3A state championship.
After the Panthers’ 4-3 win over Gig Harbor on Friday in a 3A state semifinal at Carl Sparks Stadium, that dream is now reality.
“(Dreaming that dream) has helped to develop trust among themselves, a willingness to listen to the coaches and a resiliency to bounce back when we’ve stumbled,” Raney said. “Now we’re on the doorstep of achieving that dream.”
Snohomish plays Roosevelt at 3 p.m. Saturday in the state-championship contest.
“Our goal all year long has been to win the state title,” said Panthers forward Logan Stapleton, who scored two goals Friday. “This is our fifth straight final four, so the expectation is always there. We have a belief in ourselves, and that’s the biggest thing. We’ve got such strong team chemistry, and when we get going, we can be hard to stop.”
The Panthers mostly rolled through their regular-season schedule, thanks in part to a dynamic offensive attack that averaged almost four goals per game.
But they’ve faced a bit of adversity along the way. They viewed their loss to Lynnwood in the 3A District 1 title game on May 13 as an opportunity to get better, and they posted a solid 5-2 win in their first-round state tournament contest three days later.
But they had to score two late goals in their May 20 quarterfinal game against Kamiakin to advance to the semifinal round. And Friday, they saw their healthy lead disappear late as the Tides scored three second-half goals to cut the deficit to one.
Snohomish found a way to hold on, though, and the Panthers chose to view the second half of Friday’s game as another learning experience they can use for Saturday’s championship match.
“(Allowing late goals) has been our thorn,” Raney said. “We know we can score goals, but we’re not a great team yet; we’re working toward greatness. But the one thing we do have is a hunger for success that is difficult to match.”
The Panthers took a 2-0 lead into halftime thanks to goals by Jamie Young and Stapleton. They extended their advantage to 3-0 on Stapleton’s second goal in the 44th minute, and after Gig Harbor scored three minutes later, Felipe Cerna tallied Snohomish’s fourth goal, in the 71st minute.
But the Tides scored goals in the 74th and 77th minutes to pull within one. After being outshot 8-1 in the first half, Gig Harbor outshot the Panthers 8-5 in the second half.
“They’re a good team. They’ll give (Roosevelt) a good game,” Tides coach Todd Northstrom said. “They’ve always been able to produce quality players and coaches. They like to play with a direct style, and because of their physicality, they won a lot of battles. It seemed like every way we talked about how they could score goals against us, they did. The best team won.”
Snohomish 4, Gig Harbor 3
Goals: Logan Stapleton (S) 2, Jamie Young (S), Felipe Cerna (S), Chasey Tovey (G), Jovani Martinez (G), Max Frank (G). Assists: Griffin Miller (S), Jovani Martinez (G).