The program’s never played in a state game before, but nerves weren’t evident for the Issaquah boys soccer team on Tuesday night.
Playing in front of arguably their largest home crowd of the season, the Eagles defeated Rogers of Puyallup, 2-1, in the opening round of the 4A state tournament.
“It feels amazing,” said junior Conner Holmes, who headed in the eventual game-winning shot in the 59th minute. “We’re just making history right here. We’re just playing for our coaches who played here. It’s just great.”
Issaquah and Rogers remained scoreless through the first 49 minutes of the game, until Eagle midfielder Lucas Morais broke the stalemate. Working one-on-one against a defender down the right side of the field, Morais popped the ball over his head setting himself up for an open shot. In a last ditch effort, the defender pulled him down from behind, setting up a penalty kick.
“He’s very crafty with the ball,” Issaquah coach Jason Lichtenberger said. “He did this nice little touch to fool the defender and he was through, and the defender tried to recover. Lucas is so fast, he was already gone.”
Morais calmly placed the penalty kick in the bottom right corner of the net, past lanky goalkeeper Andrew Anderson.
“I just had to shoot low, he’s a tall dude,” Morais said.
The Eagles struck 10 minutes later when Holmes sprinted downfield from his defensive position to receive a throw-in from teammate Andrew Schubert. The ball found the head of Holmes, who drilled it into the bottom left corner for a 2-0 lead.
“(Schubert) always throws in long, he can always get into the box deep,” Holmes said. “I just went in there and tried to either flick it to Lucas (Morais) or someone else, or knock it in the goal right on the ground.”
Rogers had a quick answer, scoring four minutes later on a penalty kick pass from Josh Carbudillo to Stephen Dutson.
“When they got the foul, and then they got the goal, it picked their life back up,” Lichtenberger said.
Eagle goalkeeper Stephen Jacobson made two crucial saves in the waning minutes. He nabbed a loose ball from a wide open Ram in a one-on-one situation in the 13th minute. His largest save, however, came with 2:45 left on the clock. Rogers’ Zach Cook got off a wide open blast from 10 yards out, but Jacobson snagged it in mid-air.
“I knew I had to at least knock it down,” he said.
Earning the program’s first-ever state win, in its first attempt is something that won’t soon be forgotten.
“I’m not going to downplay it,” Lichtenberger said. “It’s huge. It’s enormous. It’s exciting.”
While the team is excited with its accomplishments, one thing is certain — they’re not satisfied.
“Getting the record for the wins and then going to the quarterfinals, I mean we’re not going to stop there,” Morais said. “We want to get to the state finals.”
Issaquah (13-5-2) will face Marysville-Pilchuck (17-0-2) at 1 p.m., Saturday at Lake Stevens High School in a quarterfinal matchup. The winner advances to the semifinals to face the winner of Snohomish-South Kitsap, Friday May 29 at Harry Lang Stadium in Lakewood.