Final 4A state bid escapes Thunderbirds

  • Charlie Laughtland<br>Enterprise writer
  • Thursday, February 28, 2008 10:00am

EVERETT — Drama, suspense, end-to-end action. And an unseasonable first-half hailstorm for good measure.

The Shorewood boys soccer team’s winner-to-state, loser-out Northwest District 4A showdown with Cascade May 16 at Frank Goddard Stadium had it all.

Oh, except scoring.

With the district’s third and final state berth resting on the outcome, neither side was prepared to give an inch during 80 back-and-forth minutes of regulation and a pair of five-minute overtimes.

It wasn’t until the Western Conference rivals moved on to penalty kicks that the Bruins gained an advantage. And a slight one at that.

Cascade came away from the shootout with a 4-3 edge to clinch a narrow victory and a trip to the 16-team Class 4A state championships.

Losing for just the second time in their final nine outings, the Thunderbirds ended the season 11-5-3 overall.

“I felt we had the better chances in the game,” Shorewood coach Drew Thompson said. “We were knocking on the door, we just couldn’t get in.”

Riding a 12-game unbeaten streak, the Bruins caught the first break of the shootout when senior goalkeeper Chris Fitzgerald blocked Matt Friend’s attempt with the score tied at 1.

Both teams converted their next two kicks before the T-birds pulled even going into the final round when junior keeper Griffin Manchester stuffed Cascade’s fourth shot.

Manchester leapt from the rain-soaked turf still clutching the ball and pumped his free fist, then watched as Shorewood forward Eric Sather skied his go-ahead attempt over the goal.

Cascade defender Richard Togerson broke the deadlock for good by driving a swift, low boot past Manchester, who thwarted several potential scoring opportunities prior to the shootout, including a diving save on a breakaway shot in the 71st minute.

“Griffin has really stepped up this year, especially the second half of the season,” Friend said. “He’s really becoming a presence in the box.”

In three playoff games, the T-birds allowed just one goal.

“Our defense has stepped up these last two or three games,” Thompson said. “Our defense has been excellent down the stretch, including the goalkeeping by Griffin.”

An unexpected dose of wet and chilly weather accompanied Shorewood and Cascade from the outset. About 10 minutes in, the incessant rain showers thickened and hail pelted the carpet for the remainder of the first half.

“It was sloppy. Both teams were sliding around, the ball (was) bouncing everywhere,” Friend said. “The ball was skipping through, past defenders, over forwards’ heads to other players. You had to expect something weird was going to happen and the ball would somehow get through.”

Thompson thought his players adjusted well to the slick surface.

“It definitely wasn’t conditions we expected,” he said. “It was difficult footing out there, but the guys did a good job fighting through the elements and playing our game. They executed the game plan pretty well and probably should have scored.

“We were hoping we were going to get a little bit of luck and the ball just didn’t bounce our way tonight.”

Shorewood’s best looks came in the second half, as the downpour slowed to a drizzle. Senior midfielder Keith Schneider came close on a pair of long-range blasts and drilled another deep shot off the crossbar in the final minute of the first overtime period.

Defenders Scott Jones and Drew Mack and Schneider all nailed their penalty kicks for the T-birds during the shootout to force Cascade’s fifth attempt.

“They all picked it up a notch for the playoffs. I’m proud of all these guys,” Thompson said. “As far as I’m concerned, we probably deserve to be going to state right now. But that’s the way it goes.”

To reach the winner-to-state contest, the T-birds dismissed Monroe and Lake Stevens in a pair of loser-out matchups last week.

“Toward the end of the season we all started coming together again,” said Friend, one of nine seniors on Shorewood’s roster. “In the postseason we were the underdog. Everyone expected us to lose.

“But we believed in ourselves and knew we could come out and beat the northern teams everyone expected to win.”

Shorewood claimed four of its final six regular season games to finish tied for fourth in the Wesco 4A South Division and snap its four-year playoff drought.

“We can be proud of what we did,” Thompson said. “We made a run late. We kind of struggled off and on all season long. But in the end they showed what kind of team they were.”

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