By Sam Paul-Barrette, intern
First it was an early season 2-0 setback against state championship favorite Mount Vernon Christian. Then a last-second 3-2 loss to Providence Classical Christian, a squad that made the state tournament each of the last four years.
After that came a 3-0 loss to last year’s state runner-up, the Grace Academy Eagles, and then a controversial 3-2 decision against the undefeated Hurricanes of Mount Vernon Christian (15-0), a game in which the the Wolverines felt they played well enough to win; and finally, an underwhelming 5-1 setback at the hands of Providence.
The common theme?
All games against Top 10 opponents in the state rankings, and all games coaches and players pegged as “must-wins.”
In a crucial home game Friday, Oct. 24, the Friday Harbor boys soccer team (10-5) bucked its trend, defeating Grace Academy by a tight 3-2 score. On a night when Friday Harbor’s nine seniors said goodbye to the FHHS field, the mass of fans were given a treat of a game.
Arno Issanjou (pictured at right) scored his team-leading 13th and 14th goals of the season, including opening the scoring just before halftime, and later converting a penalty kick in the dying minutes of the game to give the Wolverines the win.
The road to victory was a bumpy one for Friday Harbor.
After Issanjou’s first goal, the Eagles (10-5) came storming out of the gate in the second half, with one of the top players in the state, Jeremiah Lee, netting two goals in 10 minutes to put the visitors in front. But Friday Harbor responded, with Sam Stewart firing home to tie the score in the 68th minute of the game, capping an impressive passing sequence in the Wolverines midfield.
With five minutes left, it looked like the game would end in a stalemate, when Max Haenel attempted to send a cross towards goal and the ball struck the arm of an Eagles defender, giving Friday Harbor a penalty kick and a perfect chance to go ahead.
Issanjou calmly stepped up and sent a low shot into the corner of the goal, beating reigning state “Goalkeeper of the Year” Isaiah VanDam to the delight of an extraordinarily large Wolverines crowd. The Wolverines were able to control the ball for the final minutes and collect a much-needed victory.
Assistant coach Jose Churape made sure to note that the work is not done and the team can still improve.
“Competing well with Mount Vernon Christian, Providence and Grace shows that we can belong with those high-ranked teams, but we’ve also shown there’s more work to be done to get there.”
The Wolverines already have locked up a playoff spot and move into a tie for 3rd place with the Eagles. They finished the regular season on the road against Lopez Island (2-12) on Monday, and open the playoffs either Thursday, Oct. 30, or Saturday, Nov. 1, depending on other results.