POULSBO — Same team, same result.
The Sequim boys soccer team’s season had an all-too-familiar ending Tuesday with a 1-0 loss to the Bellingham Red Raiders in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs.
Bellingham’s Dylan Langei netted the lone score in the 42nd minute, two minutes into the second half, keeping the Wolves (12-6) out of the state quarterfinals for the second straight season with the same one-goal difference that separated the two teams last spring.
“I was really proud of these kids,” said Sequim coach Dave Brasher, whose Wolves visited state in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history.
“It’s always exciting to get to state. We want to take it one farther and these guys are really disappointed we couldn’t, but soccer . . . if you get a bounce here or there you could be in the quarterfinals.”
Few know that better than Brasher.
All three of his state playoff teams have been eliminated in one-goal losses, including the 2004 team’s shootout loss to Cheney.
Of course, if it wasn’t for the outstanding play of Sequim goalkeeper Byron Boots, who finished with nine saves on the game, Tuesday’s score may have been much worse.
“You don’t want to take too few of shots, but you don’t want to take so many that you are just wasting opportunities,” the sophomore keeper said.
“They were doing a really good job of waiting for the solid opportunities and then using them, and eventually they got one of them.”
Bellingham outshot Sequim 12-7 on the game.
The Red Raiders (16-4) got two point-blank scoring chances during the first half while playing against the howling winds coming out of the south end zone of North Kitsap High School’s turf field.
Stops both shots
Yet Boots handled both, punching the first away with his left fist with a diving stop and deflecting another shot from 10 yards out before it was cleared by the Sequim defense.
The Red Raiders kept the pressure on with the wind at their backs in the second half, getting a breakaway attempt in the first minute.
The opportunity was again stymied by Boots, who rushed out to deflect the ball before a rushing Red Raider could get his shot off.
Bellingham struck one minute later when Alex Paige took an inbounds throw and delivered a through ball to a sprinting Langei, who slipped past two Wolves defenders, then knocked it past Boots into the left corner of the net.
“We had some good opportunities to score that I think we missed, but we got the one that matters,” Red Raiders coach Jared Fields said.
“We played them last year in this game and we knew that they liked to possess the ball out of the back, so we were going to press them and not let them get into their rhythm.
“I thought we did a good job. Overall I was really proud of our possession. We set the tempo and played at our speed.”
Sequim’s best scoring chances came on set pieces between defender Austin Sanford and forward Jerry Azanza.
The two hooked up on a pair of long free kicks by Sanford, with Azanza putting it on goal with his head both times.
The first shot, coming midway through the first half, bounced just left of the post, while the second, coming in the 57th minute, was snared by the Bellingham keeper.
The latter was one of the few decent scoring opportunities the Wolves managed during the second half.
Violent winds, combined with a Bellingham’s dogged ball pressure, were just enough to keep Sequim from putting many shots on frame.
“They got some good players and kept the pressure on us, they had some good tactics up front there,” Brasher said.
“I thought we could have done a little bit better in the wind. We defended really well. We didn’t let them have many shots. Byron made two big saves to keep us in it.
“We just needed that one break that we didn’t get.”
Sequim entered the game on a 6-1 run following a three-game win streak during the middle of the season.
The late season run included Saturday’s dramatic shootout victory over the 2A Nisqually League champion Steilacoom Sentinels.
“This was the first team I’ve been on that was actually a team,” said Sanford, one of eight Sequim seniors who suited up for the final time Tuesday. “There was no one person that stood out.
“So going into this game I felt like this is the best team I’ve been on. But I think they were just straight out better than us, and they deserved to win that game.”
Bellingham 1, Sequim 0
Bellingham 0 1 — 1
Sequim 0 0 — 0
First half: No scoring.Second Half: 1, Bellingham, Langei (Paige), 42nd minute.