Perhaps a bit rusty from not facing a penalty kick tiebreaker all season, Sequim finally tasted defeat on the pitch.
The Wolves, however, have plenty to play for.
Despite a 1-0 loss to Fife in the West Central District championship on May 11, Sequim (15-1-2) opens the state 2A tournament at 6 p.m. today, Wednesday, May 15, at their postseason home-away-from-home — Peninsula College’s Sigmar Field — against Woodland (12-4-2).
The Wolves are seeking a second berth in the state quarterfinals in as many seasons — they advanced to last year’s second round after Toppenish forfeited, then fell to Burlington-Edison in a 4-3 heart-breaker — and could get a familiar foe in the next round. If Sequim and rival Port Angeles, whose Roughriders were set to take on Sehome on May 14, both win, the two will match up on May 17 or 18 in the quarterfinals.
Against Fife the Wolves had a number of chances but couldn’t find the net — in regulation or in the penalty kick round.
“Overall, we had the better chances,” Sequim coach Dave Brasher said. Sequim missed a penalty shot in the first 10 minutes when Matthys Tanche was taken down in the penalty box, and Adrian Funston got off a solid shot that just went wide.
A couple of Sequim headers “just missed inches wide,” Brasher said.
The game ended in regulation tied 0-0.
Wolves’ goalkeeper Navy Thomas-Brenske made a save on Fife’s first penalty shot which got the Wolves fired up, Brasher said. But the Wolves hadn’t gone to penalty shots all year and Brasher said they didn’t do very well on their shots as Funston then hit the bar on his shot and Sequim ended up going 0-for-3 on penalty kicks.
“Penalty kicks can be contagious,” Brasher said.
Brasher said the good that can come out of a loss like this is to remind the Wolves’ players “how lousy it is to lose. Maybe it’ll be a good thing. We really did want the district championship.”
Powering past Patriots
For nearly a full half of play, the Washington Patriots did what few teams this season have been able to for any amount of time and no team had been able to do for a full 80 minutes: hold a lead against the Sequim Wolves.
But a pair of scores just before the first half whistle gave the Wolves the lead and eventually pushed Sequim past the Patriots 4-2 in a West Central District semifinal on May 7 in Port Angeles.
Brasher said the Wolves are tough to beat because they get scoring from a variety of players rather than relying on one or two scorers. That aspect paid off last week, with Ryan Tolberd getting two scores and Tanche and Sean Weber adding one each.
“That kind of the strength of our team, even going back to that first game against Port Angeles,” Brasher said, referencing a March 12 game that saw Sequim rebound from a 3-0 deficit to top their rivals 5-4.
“We can score from anywhere,” he said.
Sequim needed plenty of offense Tuesday, after Washington jumped out to leads of 1-0 and 2-1 before Sequim rallied.
“They’re a classic counter-attacking team; they’re real good at finding angles,” Brasher said. “It took us a while to figure it out.”
Washington opened the scoring at 16 minutes off a counterattack, but Tolberd evened the game at 1-1 after the Wolves knocked the ball into the penalty box; and after it was knocked about, the Sequim junior found the net.
Sequim looked to jump ahead just four minutes later when Eli Gish ripped a shot with the Patriot keeper out of the net, but Washington’s Darrick Dixon cleared the ball.
At 35 minutes, the Patriots scored on another counter attack, with David Baltazar breaking free and slipping a shot past Sequim keeper Navy Thomas-Brenske.
“It was a beautiful ball (to Baltazar) and then one-on-one … those are always tough,” Thomas-Brenske said.
The junior goalkeeper said there was little doubt in his mind the Wolves could and would come back in the playoff game, however.
“We respond so well (to being down); we play for each other,” Thomas-Brenske said.
Moments later, Weber overcame nearly getting tripped up by a Patriot defender to rip a left-footed blast from about 25 yards out for a score, knotting the game at 2-2.
“I saw the ball come out of the air, I took it on my chest and I had a little space,” Weber said. “The guy I had (defending me) committed a little bit, so I took my chance and cut in. I saw him on the ground and thought ‘Here goes nothing.’ I kind of curled it with my left foot into the upper 90. And that was probably the best high school goal I’ve ever scored.”
In stoppage time, Sequim’s Mike McAleer chipped a pass to Tolberd, who then flicked a shot past the Washington keeper for a 3-2 Sequim lead.
“When we went down it hyped us up even more to press Washington,” Weber said. “(Washington) played pretty good, they were effective with their attacks and we responded nicely. We ended up with the lead at halftime even though we started down and went down again. That was really good for the team’s composure.”
The Wolves dominated much of the play in the second half, with Tolberd putting shots on goal at 45 and 49 minutes, McAleer a header at 55 minutes and Tanche a pair of shots (65 and 68 minutes) that just missed.
“We had a lot of chances, just couldn’t convert them,” Thomas-Brenske said.
Washington’s best opportunity to even the game came at 69 minutes when Rylan Ellis broke free on another Patriot counterattack. Thomas-Brenske broke from the goal and snagged Ellis’ shot in midair from close range to end the threat.
Sixty seconds later, Tanche clinched the game for the Wolves with a breakaway score.
Brasher said several Wolves stood out Tuesday night, particularly Gish, Tolberd and McAleer.
“We have to shore up some stuff defensively (but) it was a good opener for us,” Brasher said.
It was Sequim’s first home playoff game on Peninsula College’s Sigmar Field. The Wolves were able to utilize the synthetic-surfaced playing field required for district playoff games.
Peninsula Daily News reporter Michael Carman contributed to this report.