Overlake overcomes rusty play, wins state opener

Overlake junior John Piela was disappointed with his first soccer game in six months. And head coach Bob Bristol called the team rusty.

Overlake junior John Piela was disappointed with his first soccer game in six months. And head coach Bob Bristol called the team rusty.

Which begs the question: If this was a bad game, how dominant can the Owls be if they are playing well?

John Piela scored the game’s lone goal in the 42nd minute and the Owls dominated time of possession and scoring opportunities as Overlake defeated Vashon 1-0 in the opening round of the Class 1A state tournament on Tuesday. Overlake — which was playing its first game since Nov. 6 because the Emerald City League plays its season in the fall but the majority of 1A teams play in the spring — played in the state quarterfinals against King’s on Friday, after the Reporter deadline. A win there and the Owls would be playing in the state championship on May 23 and 24 at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.

This all seemed like a long shot after Overlake — which starts about a half dozen sophomores — started the season 1-4 after a three-win campaign in 2007-08. But Overlake (11-6-3) would end up winning five straight games last fall, including back-to-back playoff games in the postseason to reach the state playoffs.

Despite the layoff, Overlake still took control from the opening kickoff on Tuesday, seemingly running down every loose ball and getting countless scoring opportunities.

“Compared to how we played in the fall, it was rusty,” Bristol said. “The thing is the guys are fit because they are playing other sports, but as far as how we play as a team, it’s not as pretty as it was in the fall. But certainly there’s a lot of heart out there.”

Several of the first-half scoring opportunities came from Piela on breakaways, but couldn’t find the net.

That changed early in the second half, when Piela scored with his right foot in the bottom left corner off a pass from sophomore Sky Tweedie-Yates.

“Ridiculous,” Piela said with a wide-eyed grin about how good it felt to score at state.

“I think I played alright today,” he continued. “I think the rain was definitely a factor, and I should have had at least one more, maybe even two. my touch just wasn’t on today.”

But Piela’s goal was all Overlake would need. George Dolack didn’t allow anything to pass him in net, but the junior goalkeeper didn’t have to face too many shots either as the defense thwarted the majority Vashon’s scoring opportunities.

“The defenders were so fired up to keep playing,” Bristol said. “That’s something they’ve done all year. There’s a lot of pride for them. Coming out hard even though we haven’t been playing in the spring like everyone else.”

Bristol has talked about the disadvantage Emerald City is at, playing the season in the fall and state in the spring, several times throughout the season. Piela, who does not play a different spring sport, said it was difficult playing after the layoff.

“I pretty much haven’t played in three, four months,” Piela said. “The first half, I didn’t feel too good. My stomach hurt. I felt like I was going to throw up. But something happened in the start of the second half, it just kind of clicked. So the first half was really hard for me, but I guess I got my second wind in the start of the second half.”

And with the win, the young, rusty Owl team continues to defy the odds.

“Everywhere we turn, we end up not getting much respect,” Piela said. “We’ve always kind of been the underdog, and to do this for not playing for a couple months, I’m pretty impressed with my team. Most people didn’t even think this was plausible.”