Overlake’s boys soccer team won the 1A state title on Saturday. Courtesy of The Overlake School Twitter page

Overlake boys soccer scores state title

Overlake can now be called 1A’s top soccer school for 2016-2017.

The girls won the state title in the fall, and the boys secured the two-fer on Saturday with a 1-0 victory over Wahluke at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.

“The game was a tough one because both teams had to play a second game in two days in conditions (heat) that at least we hadn’t seen all year,” said coach Bob Bristol.

Nathan Cunningham provided the scoring punch off a corner kick from Esty Sanchez in the 38th minute. Cunningham flicked the ball in with the outside of his right foot.

Earlier in the season, Overlake (15-1-4 overall) beat Wahluke, 1-0, so the Owls were familiar with their final foe and Cunningham said they watched them the day before and felt confident in their matchups.

Cunningham said scoring against Wahluke was, “the greatest feeling of my life. That ended up being the only goal of the game and we won state!”

Overlake’s defense battened down the hatches in the second half. Joseph Raymond headed away high balls, Kirby Wetherbee and Bryce Goldman shut down Wahluke’s wide attack and Cunningham directed the defense and made key stops.

According to Bristol, goalkeeper Lucas Rojas “made some courageous catches in traffic on crosses, including a very dangerous one in the last minute of the game where the opponent went right at his legs while he was in the air. He held on.”

As a bonus, Raymond won the sportsmanship award.

Bristol announced his retirement after 22 seasons at the Overlake helm following the match. Bristol said he and his wife “have been looking towards some future things in our lives.”

On Bristol announcing his retirement, Cunningham said: “As his captain and as someone who has looked up to him for years, it was hard not to be emotional. As many of us on the team say, we would run through a wall for that man, so to send him off like we did fills us with pride.”

Luke Brezak said the key to success was the team sticking together throughout the season. Two crucial players, Matt Slee and Nate Skochdopole, sustained injuries early on, and Brezak said it was important that the players work their hardest every day and make sure they didn’t let each other down.

“Our team became a family, and they made practice the highlight of my day, every single day throughout the season,” Brezak said. “I feel blessed to be a part of this team, as the amount that we care for each other is displayed on and off the field through our happiness after every game, and especially after Saturday, as we could feel all of our hard work culminating into victory.”

“We owe a lot to our families and to our fans for believing in us this season. It would have been impossible to do it without them,” Cunningham said.

In his mind, Cunningham traveled back in time to when he was a youngster watching Overlake soccer.

“This game was a sort of rematch of the 2010 final where I saw my older brother Andrew fall to Wahluke, 3-0,” Cunningham said. “After that game, 11-year-old me went up to Bob and told him we would come back and win it my senior year. Little did I know that I would end up making this lofty dream a reality, and end up scoring the winning goal. Just like I had imagined doing 1,000 times over.”

* Overlake defeated The Bush School, 3-1, in the semifinals on Friday.

Overlake conceded an own goal three minutes into the game, but at the 11-minute mark, Brevin Lacy tallied on a long-range, left-footed shot into the upper left corner.

After missing nearly the entire season with a broken collarbone, senior Slee returned to action in the 20th minute to a standing ovation from the Overlake fans.

Six minutes later, he netted a long shot to put the Owls up, 2-1.

“The team knew that the only chance he would have of playing again for Overlake was if we made it to the final four, so that was a real motivation for the team,” Bristol said.

In the 62nd minute, a hustling Alex Martin caused a turnover in the Bush end and the ball bounced to Lucas Tsilas, who scored a one-on-one goal past the keeper.

Overlake center midfielder Skochdopole played solid and shut down Emerald City League MVP Eamon Stein down the stretch.

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