Sports

Overlake claims state soccer title, gives coach an emotional lift

The Overlake boys
The Overlake boys' soccer team celebrates after beating Chelan, 1-0, in a shootout for the Class 1A state title.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Lee Dolack

Bob Bristol tried his best to stay on an even keel throughout a season of personal pain and heartache. But after his Overlake School boys’ soccer team won the Class 1A state title at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner last Saturday, he could no longer hold his emotions back.

Filled with joy — and relief — the longtime coach told his players after the dog pile celebration how he had dedicated the season to his father, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in January.

He called Saturday’s 1-0 shootout victory against Chelan a “gift” to his father, Michael, who lives in Pennsylvania.

“While the team wasn’t fully aware of Bob’s situation at home, besides winning it for ourselves and for our school, everyone wanted to win the championship for Bob,” said senior Dean Poplawski. “He has dedicated so much to Overlake soccer and has been such an important part of our team this year and in years past.”

Bristol (pictured below) admits this season has been “stressful” as he missed several practices throughout the season to fly back east to visit and support his father.

But when the Owls beat Chelan — thanks to a brilliant coaching move by Bristol — he admitted he felt some “major stress relief.” Because as he puts it, soccer is still “the one thing (he) can control.”

“It makes you feel good when it goes well,” said Bristol, who had a brain tumor removed a month before Overlake played in the 2010 Class 1A state finals and lost.

But this year, the Owls delivered in crunch time to give their coach his first state title since 1996 and some much-needed happiness in what has been a turbulent time for Bristol.

“It felt great,” he said of the title win.

A well-calculated move by Bristol in both Friday’s semifinal against Ridgefield and Saturday’s final against Chelan over the weekend led to the championship win.

In both games, the Owls had to pull out wins with penalty kicks in do-or-die shootout situations and Bristol decided to replace starter Jordan Cardenas in goal with Poplawski, an all-league midfielder who delivered big-time for his coach.

“Dean has great reflexes and leaping ability and during the week leading up to the game, he had been taking some kicks,” Bristol said. “He is so focused and competitive.”

Against Ridgefield, the Owls tied the game at 1 in the second half on a 30-yard, free-kick goal by senior Jesse Klug, who was battling a bout with pneumonia over the weekend.

The teams remained tied after the two overtime periods, forcing a penalty-kick shootout and a substitution in goal by Bristol. That’s when Bristol turned to Poplawski and told him, “Put your jersey on. You are going to do it.”

Poplawski made three brilliant saves in the shootout against Ridgefield as the Owls outshot Ridgefield, 4-3, to pull out the win and advance to the title game.

The Owls battled hard with Chelan in the championship game as Klug, who will play at Bucknell next year, was stopped on three different one-on-one opportunities against Chelan goal keeper Ruben Medina, including one with less than five seconds left in the second overtime.

The teams battled to a 0-0 tie, leading to another penalty-kick shootout and another chance for Poplawski to deliver in the net.

And he did as Poplawski made a diving save after Chelan misfired on its first two penalty-kick attempts. Meanwhile, Overlake’s Bryan Lin and Rohan Kumar both scored on their penalty kicks. Then Klug, who chose to play for his high school team this year after skipping his junior season to train with the Sounder FC Academy, hit the victory-sealing penalty kick.

“It couldn’t have been more fitting for Jesse to walk up and take that final shot,” Poplawski said. “He played amazing for us this year and we were so lucky to have him choose to play high school soccer for our senior season.”

Bristol said the play of center-back defenders Joe Dolack and Mac Hewitt was key in slowing down Chelan star Eleazar Galvan, who was held in check after scoring two goals in Chelan’s semifinal win against Royal.

“We were the ones creating the chances,” said Bristol. “I told the kids, ‘may the best team win and let’s hope we are the best team.’ And were the best team both days last weekend.”

Overlake finished the season 19-0-1 and will have nine graduating seniors, who helped the Owls program to a combined 53-2-3 record over the last three seasons.

“I am so happy for those seniors and the way this team finished,” Bristol said. “It’s such a great relief.”


 

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