PUYALLUP – “There are always speed bumps in the road, it’s how you recover, how you stand up, how resilient you are,” Grizzly Co-Coach Sergio Licona told a disappointed soccer team after last Friday’s 2-0 State semi-final loss to Mercer Island.
The squad was plenty resilient on Saturday in recovering from two deficits to defeat Shorewood in the third/fourth place trophy game at the State 3A soccer tourney last Saturday.
It is the first State soccer trophy in the program’s history.
The Grizzlies were still standing Saturday thanks in large part to the offensive prowess of freshman defender Jose Marquez.
After Shorewood grabbed a 1-0 lead at the half thanks to a penalty kick, Marquez chested down a carom in front of the Thunderbird goal and set the table for Noe Meza to boot the equalizer into the back of the net.
With the score tied 1-1 in the 65th minute, Shorewood struck again just two minutes before the end of regulation on a second penalty kick.
With a second consecutive loss staring at them, the Grizzlies proved resilient once more.
In the 80th minute, just seconds before the final whistle awarding the third place trophy to Shorewood, Marquez gathered in a pass from freshman classmate Lupe Granados and headed it into the back of the net to knot things up at 2-2.
“Marquez put a good header on the ball and the goalie came out too far and the ball went over his head,” Co-Coach David Guevara said of the pivotal goal.
After two scoreless overtimes, the stage was set for a winner-take-all shootout.
Both Shorewood and Sunnyside drilled all five of their penalty kick attempts to force a sixth attempt.
Lupe Granados, Cristian Chavez, Noe Meza, Enrique De La Cruz and Misael Vasquez all proved clutch for the Grizzlies in scoring on their shootout attempts.
On the sixth attempt, Sunnyside keeper Manuel Calvillo got a hand on the Shorewood kick and batted it away. Guevara said there were two or three previous penalty kicks Calvillo nearly got a finger on before coming through with a stop.
Though Sunnyside still had to make its own sixth penalty kick to assure victory, game officials mistakenly blew the whistle signaling the match was over. Sunnyside players momentarily rejoiced, before thumping back to earth with the realization they still had to connect one more time.
“We went from pure euphoria to realizing the ref messed up,” said Guevara.
Into the emotional roller coaster stepped, who else, Marquez with the State third place trophy on the line. The junior promptly drilled the ball into the top left corner of the net…setting off a second Grizzly celebration.
“He’s been integral for us in stopping goals this season, this time he was able to score for us,” Guevara said.
Saturday’s fireworks were set up by a loss to a tall and fast Mercer Island club in Friday’s semi-final.
The Islanders blasted 10 goals in their first two State play-off games combined, but had to wait until nearly the 60th minute to nick the Grizzlies.
“We could only neutralize their height for so long,” Guevara said of the three or four-inch height advantage the Grizzlies conceded to towering Mercer Island.
Desperate to find an equalizer, Sunnyside brought eight players forward in the final minutes. That led to a second Mercer Island goal in the 75th minute on a counter-attack.
Mercer Island went on to lose to Lakeside in the title match 1-0, while the Grizzlies ended 2014 with the rally over Shorewood.
“It’s very rare you get to end on a happy note,” Guevara said. “Even though we didn’t win the title, we were able to finish well.”
Sunnyside loses senior defensive stoppers Jacob Meza, Enrique De La Cruz, Humberto Galvan and Jorge Villegas.
The Grizzlies will return plenty of firepower on offense next season with the likes of Chavez and Alexander Marin, but to get a preview of players who will be pivotal for next year’s defense, Guevara and Licona cleared the bench against Shorewood. All but the injured Jesus Torres and Villegas, who has also struggled with injuries this season, saw action Saturday.
Guevara liked what he saw and he likes the Grizzlies’ chances at the 4A level next season. “The greatest experience (from State) is knowing we belong there and the ability to play there,” he said. “We will compete at the 4A level, we have to be physical and out-touch people with the ball.”
For Guevara, it’s been a momentous spring as in March he was an assistant coach for the trail blazing Lady Grizzly basketball team that brought home fourth-place hardware.
“They are different parts of your heart,” he said of witnessing Grizzly sports history twice in three months. “It’s all about the kids. They executed, they worked their butts off.”