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South outlasts Lake Stevens, moves into title game
Tony Saddler hadn't been in a shootout since he played recreational soccer in the sixth grade. Friday night, it was hard to believe that was true.
Saddler, South Kitsap's senior goalie, skillfully turned away two of the four shots he saw in a shootout with Lake Stevens to lead South Kitsap past the Vikings 1-0 and into Saturday night's Class 4A state soccer championship game.
The Wolves, 18-2-0, advanced by outscoring Lake Stevens 4-2 in the shootout and will face Snohomish at 8 p.m. at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner to decide the state title. Snohomish beat Mead 2-1 in the other semifinal to advance.
"We'll take it, just like (Lake Stevens) would have too," South coach Eric Bergeson said. "I thought we were the physically more aggressive team and sometimes we paid the price for that. But you take it anyway it comes at this point."
After a scoreless regulation and two five-minute overtimes, the game came down to a shootout and the Wolves wasted little time in getting the upper hand.
Junior Travis Gutierrez scored on Lake Stevens goalie Zach Hardwick to get the shootout under way but it was Saddler's stop on a shot by Jordan Carter that gave South the advantage.
"I just wanted to go in there and be calm, not get pissed off if I missed one," Saddler said. "I really wanted to stop that first one and I read him like a book.
"And if you can get that one and your team does its job and puts the rest of them in, then it's smooth sailing," Saddler said. "And I had no doubt (that we would score)."
Despite South's quick 1-0 advantage, the two teams traded goals with Kyle Schoales, Tim Grey and Victor Kelmel scoring for the Wolves while Bryce Kinney and Eric Guenther scored for Lake Stevens. But when Saddler stonewalled a shot by Tyler Johnson, the match was over.
"Hey, Tony's my best friend right now, I'm definitely proud of him," senior Cade Mossman said. "He's got the reflexes of a cat, I knew he had it."
Both teams put on a wonderful display of soccer before having to decide the match in a shootout. Both teams, which closely resembled each other in many facets of the game, had their chances to score in regulation but both Hardwick and Saddler played strong, as did the defenses in front of them.
South had two solid looks but couldn't convert while the Vikings sent three shots that looked good just over the crossbar of the goal.
The win continues South's deepest playoff run in school history and a familiar foe stands in the way of a state title. Snohomish ended the Wolves seasons in the 1999 and 2002 state tournaments.
The Panthers, 19-1-0, were at one time ranked No. 1 in the country by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Their lone loss of the year came at the hands of Lake Stevens. Snohomish is now ranked sixth while South Kitsap entered the polls this week at 13th.
"Snohomish isn't a team that can't be beaten," Mossman said. "We just have to come out and not be scared and just play our game."
South Kitsap 1, Lake Stevens 0, (4-2 shootout)
Shootout goals - South Kitsap: Travis Gutierrez, Kyle Schoales, Tim Grey, Victor Kelmel; Lake Stevens: Bryce Kinney, Eric Guenther.