Bear Creek soccer teams make state semifinals, headed to Sumner

Teammates celebrate after Olivia Tillinghast (second from right) scores her first goal of the night in the Grizzlies
Teammates celebrate after Olivia Tillinghast (second from right) scores her first goal of the night in the Grizzlies' 6-2 semifinals win over Seattle Lutheran. The win advanced Bear Creek into the state semifinals this Friday night against Crosspoint Academy.
— image credit: Photo Courtesy of Sini Fernandez

The Grizzlies' soccer squads kept their magical seasons alive in their state tournament openers last Saturday at Sammamish High in Bellevue.

The boys defeated Tacoma Baptist for the first time in three tries this season, 3-2, to advance to the state semifinals at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium in Sumner.

In the game, Mark Phillips put the Grizzlies up 2-0 with goals in the seventh and 31st minutes, with Gabe Rongve and Stan Leszynski providing assists.

The Crusaders struck back quickly, with two unassisted goals in the 33rd and 36th minutes to tie the score.

Midway through the second half, Luke Blankenbeckler, who missed an open-net goal early in the second half, came back with a clutch header goal off Nima Abtahi to put the team up for good and send Bear Creek back to Sumner.

"When you miss an easy one, there are really only two ways to respond – you can feel sorry for yourself, or you can move on and work even harder," Pohlman explained. "Nima played a beautiful cross into the box from the wing, and Luke elevated about 12 inches higher than I thought was possible over a defender to put a header in the far post.  It was really an unbelievable goal in a pressure-filled moment."

In two previous matches, the Grizzlies had only tied and lost to the Crusaders, but Bear Creek dug deep when they needed it most. With the win, the Grizzlies improved to 15-1-1 and also ended the Crusaders' season, who they lost to in the state championship match back in 2009.

"I am just so proud of my team because we knew this was going to be a battle, and we came out ready to give our best effort," Pohlman said. "That’s all we want at this point is to play to our potential, and that is high… for whatever reason, we couldn’t get over the hump with Tacoma Baptist during the regular season, but we never believed for a minute that we were inferior."

The boys will face off against Providence Classical Christian at 8 p.m. on Friday night, with the winner advancing to the championship match.

Just after the boys' team punched their ticket to the semis, the Bear Creek girls' team defeated Seattle Lutheran 6-2 to make their first trip to the state semifinals in school history.

In the game, youth was served as sophomore Olivia Tillinghast and freshman Whitney Isbell each scored twice, with junior Elisabetta Udeschini and senior Morgan Rial adding goals for the Grizzlies.

The Lady Grizzlies will play Crosspoint Academy at 4 p.m. on Friday night in Sumner in the 1B/2B semifinals. In four previous meetings earlier this season, the Grizzlies have won three of them against the Warriors by a single goal, 3-2 (Sept. 22), 2-1 (Oct. 6), and 2-1 (Nov. 5), with a 3-2 loss coming on Oct. 24.



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