‘Hyped-up’ Spartans claim first-round state soccer win

May 29, 2014

By Neil Pierson

The Skyline High School boys soccer team had recently tasted disappointment in the first round of the state tournament, and the Spartans weren’t about to let it happen again.
After suffering their first loss of the season to rival Issaquah in the May 8 KingCo Conference championship game, the Spartans rebounded in a big way.
Armeen Badri and Jason Twaddle netted goals in a four-minute span of the second half, and the Spartans defeated the Puyallup Vikings 2-0 in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament May 21 at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
Senior defender Nick Morgan said Skyline’s last two playoff losses were motivating factors coming in. They lost to Puyallup (2-1) in 2012 and to Camas (1-0) in 2013.
“Before the game, we were really hyped up on winning this game and ending the curse,” Morgan said. “because we lost the KingCo finals the last couple years, and we thought losing one game was enough for the year.”
The Spartans (14-1-3) advanced to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2011, traveling to Snohomish May 24. Skyline defeated Snohomish 1-0 on March 22, although Morgan indicated last week that result means little since the rematch will have much higher stakes.
Puyallup and Skyline spent much of the opening half probing each other for weaknesses, and went to the break scoreless.
The Vikings (13-5-1) limited Skyline’s scoring chances, with the only serious threat coming on Nate Hardwick’s 32nd-minute free kick that forced a diving save from goalkeeper Jack Rose.
The opening minutes of the second half showed the Spartans to be a hungrier, more determined group, and they soon capitalized on a multitude of chances.
“We had better ball movement and we came together as a team, and we really played smart,” said Badri, a senior midfielder. “It wasn’t that much about strategy, just coming out prepared, playing our game, because we knew we could really step it up.”
In the 53rd minute, Hardwick’s long throw-in along the right sideline went deep into the penalty box. A Vikings defender headed the ball away, but it went right to Badri, who blasted a 15-yard shot past Rose to the far upper corner.
“I just saw the ball come out and I just took a good touch,” Badri said, “and took the shot and the goalie wasn’t able to stop it.”
The insurance goal came four minutes later as Jason Twaddle found a seam through Puyallup’s central defense. From 22 yards, he hit a low shot that hit Rose’s fingertips before settling into the net.
Skyline dominated the first 20 minutes of the second half, putting up 10 shots, and out-shot Puyallup 17-8 for the game.
The Spartans’ back four, with Morgan and fellow senior Nick Christoforou in the middle, didn’t let the Vikings have many chances. Goalkeeper Jack O’Keefe made three saves in the second half, none of them difficult.
Skyline has shut out 13 of its 18 opponents this year, giving up only five goals.
Morgan and Christoforou are in their first season as a central-defense pairing, but there’s more than meets the eye to the Spartans’ stinginess.
“We just talk a lot and don’t let guys behind us,” Morgan explained. “Our defense is really connected.”
If the Spartans advance to the state semifinals, they’ll return to Sparks Stadium to play Gig Harbor or Kentwood at 8 p.m. May 30. The championship game is at 5 p.m. May 31.

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