By Sam Paul-Barette, Journal intern
The Wolverines arrived in Sumner Friday, Nov. 21, with a strong desire to lift the state championship trophy, but by the end of the night, they found themselves looking at a very different task.
Friday Harbor fell 1-0 to the Waitsburg-Prescott Tigers Friday night in the Division 2A state semifinals at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium, sending them to a third place matchup with league foe Grace Academy Saturday afternoon, where they cashed in a thrilling victory via a penalty kick shootout.
In their Friday night matchup, the Wolverines found themselves pitted against an unfamiliar opponent, a speedy and skillful Tigers team that effectively intercepted and closed down the Wolverines passing lanes. For Friday Harbor, who have relied all season on a game style that focuses on calm and composed ball movement, it was a gut check.
“They played with a high intensity, made it very hard for us to control the game,” said senior defender Cassidy Quigley.
After relentless pressure, the Tigers leading scorer, Ivan Figueroa, broke through in the 64th minute of the game. The Wolverines defense was unable to clear a long ball into the box and Figueroa pounced driving a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Dalton Ayers.
The game would have one final twist, however, when a Tigers defender was whistled for a handball in the penalty box, giving the Wolverines a penalty kick in the final minute of the game. Junior Arno Issanjou, who lead the team this season with 22 goals, stepped up to take the one-on-one shot, hitting it low to the keepers right, but the ball came off the inside of the post and bounced out. The final whistle sounded mere seconds later.
“Heartbreak,” said senior forward Sam Paul-Barrette, “It all happened in slow-motion, I thought it was in. But at the end of the day, soccer is a game of inches. A hair to the left and we’re going to overtime.”
The Wolverines returned to the hotel that night with heavy disappointment but a renewed sense of purpose to grab third place against Grace Academy, a team the Wolverines had gone 1-1 against during the regular season. Come Saturday afternoon, Friday Harbor arrived at Sunset Stadium ready to play “their state championship,” as some players put it.
Against Grace Academy, they came out of the opening whistle as the clearly dominant team, testing Eagles keeper Isaiah VanDam with multiple shots on goal. Will Christison, Issanjou and Paul-Barrette all came within inches of giving the Wolverines the lead, but the Eagles standout goalkeeper made 15 saves throughout the game and through overtime.
“We ran the game. I think that was one of the best games we’ve ever played,” said Sam Gabler-Brown. “All season, every time we took one step back, we take two forward the next time. I don’t think it was a problem with our finishing, it was heroics from their keeper. And,” the senior said with a laugh, “the post.”
Grace Academy’s standout attacking player, Northwest League MVP Jeremiah Lee, was not to be outdone by the Wolverines attacking threats. The senior, who boasted 47 goals on the season, found himself with three excellent chances, but Dalton Ayers was up to the task, stopping Lee with three superb saves, one of which came in the final minute of overtime.
Finally, the game would be finished with a penalty shootout. Lee stepped up for the first Eagles kick, but Dalton Ayers would shock everybody in the stadium, by making an excellent save.
“It was over right then. They were very reliant on him,” Quigley and Gabler-Brown agreed. Ayers would go on to make three saves in the shootout, while Issanjou, Sam Stewart and Quigley put away their shots for a 3-2 victory, giving Friday Harbor a 3rd place finish, the boys soccer team’s best ever placing in the state tournament and sending their nine seniors out with a smile.
The Wolverines will send off an outstanding senior class, most of which have been influential contributors to their team since their freshman seasons. At the end of the year, they also will see off foreign exchange students Javier Gomez (Spain) and Arno Issanjou (France), the latter of which was tallied one of the highest single season goal-scoring marks in Friday Harbor history with his 22 goals and 7 assists.
The future is bright, however, as every player on the Wolverines roster contributed significant minutes in 2014, and it may not be out of reach to see Friday Harbor return to Sumner next November.
Lady Wolverines drop narrow contests, bow out in 4th place
The Lady Wolverines soccer team traveled to Sumner’s Sunset Chevrolet Stadium on Friday, Nov. 21st, but ended the weekend with a pair of 1-0 losses, taking 4th place.
Nevertheless, the Wolverines came home as the first girls soccer squad in school history to qualify for the WIAA state competition.
On a rainy Friday night in the semi-finals, Friday Harbor faced off against a Liberty Bell Mountain Lions team playing in Sumner for the third straight year, but that had lost in the semi-final round the last two seasons. The third time would be the charm for the Lions from Winthrop, at the Wolverines expense.
In the 57th minute, Cailin Chandler found herself free in the Wolverines 18-yard box after a missed clearance. The 8th grader slotted a low, close range shot past Wolverines goalkeeper Hayden Mayer for the games only goal.
The Wolverines were unable to produce a counter-attack for the remainder of the match and saw their championship hopes disappear.
The next morning, Friday Harbor would face an entirely different challenge against the Adna Pirates, who lost their semi-final 4-0 at the hands of the Crosspoint Academy Warriors. The Pirates, in only their third season of fielding a girls soccer team, were appearing in their second-straight final four after finishing 4th in the 2013.
The game seemed to be a very even one until the 24th minute, when Adna’s Kendra Stadjuhar found the back of the net with a rocket of a strike from 20 yards out.
“We didn’t put pressure on a player we knew could shoot from distance,” said Wolverines captain Kaitlyn Domenech.
The goal turned out to be a boost for the Pirates, who continued attack and create chances, while the Wolverines defense stood strong. After a late offensive charge would come up fruitless for Friday Harbor, Adna would lift the third place trophy. Although they came out of the weekend without a victory, Domenech and the team returned to San Juan Island with a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s a very rewarding feeling, being a part of a team that fought its way to state for the first time,” she said. “We’re all so proud of each other for playing our hardest through some tough games.”
The Wolverines lose 11 seniors to graduation in June, but return a strong core of players that played extensive roles on this years team. 2014 marked the first ever trip to state for the Girls Soccer program, but odds are, it will not be the last.
— Editor’s note: Sam Paul-Barrette is a member of the Friday Harbor boys soccer team.