SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Unlike the aftermath of most knockout losses in prep state tournaments, smiles, hugs and laughter permeated the atmosphere on the artificial turf as friends and family gathered to celebrate the Sequim boys soccer team.
Despite allowing a golden goal two minutes into the second overtime period to fall to Burlington-Edison 4-3 in the Class 2A state quarterfinals at Sedro-Woolley High School Saturday afternoon, the Wolves were really just happy to have had the opportunity to lace up their cleats once more with their teammates.
That the team had that moment, and the game at all, was highly improbable.
Sequim found itself back in the state tournament Friday morning despite losing 7-1 to Toppenish last Tuesday in the opening round of the state tournament.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, which oversees high school sports in the state, discovered that the Wildcats had used an ineligible player, an overage 20-year old, in last Tuesday’s match.
Suddenly, the Wolves were in the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history.
“The worst part of going out against Toppenish wasn’t that we lost, but that we wouldn’t be able to play together anymore,” Sequim’s all-time leading scorer Liam Harris said.
The team found out Friday morning, practiced that afternoon and headed east Saturday with one more chance.
Sequim allowed an early goal in the sixth minute, but the Wolves pushed forward on a free kick in the 31st minute and Burlington-Edison was unable to clear the ball and concded an own goal.
The Wolves took a 2-1 lead just after halftime on a similar play. Hayuk Minano eventually pounced on the second or third scoring chance during a scrum inside the goal box and poked the ball in the net.
Burlington-Edison tied it up on a goal that barely crossed the goal line — Sequim defenders quickly cleared the ball and the Wolves moved play forward but the strike counted and the game was level.
The Tigers took a 3-2 lead on the goal of the game, a twisting, turning free kick from 49 yards out by Cameron Orestad.
But Harris, who injured his hamstring against Toppenish, came on in reserve with 15 minutes to play and quickly made his mark.
Harris unleashed a long ball from midfield into the goal box that was saved by an on-rushing Burlington-Edison goalkeeper. The goalkeeper knocked Sequim’s Ryan Tolberd to the ground in the interim — drawing a Sequim penalty kick.
Minano took the penalty — and nailed it low and right for a tie game in the 70th minute.
Sequim didn’t get much going offensively in the overtime periods, and the Tigers pounced on a corner kick opportunity to win in walk-off fashion.
That stung, sure, but the opportunity for this high-performing, record-breaking team to play together again was the real takeaway.
“After the [Toppenish] game everybody was upset that we wouldn’t have another practice with each other,” Harris said.
“And somebody just now said we got one more practice and one more game.