In the immediate seconds following the final whistle signaling the end of the Class 4A state soccer championship game, Issaquah head coach Tom Bunnell was mobbed by his assistant coaches in a moment of jubilation.
Issaquah registered a 2-1 victory against the Central Valley Bears, clinching the state title on Nov. 18 at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. Bunnell, who announced in late October that this season would be his final one as the Eagles’ head coach, went out a champion in his last game leading the soccer program.
Issaquah senior midfielder Catey Nelson, who scored a goal in the 26th minute tying the game at 1-1, said the program wouldn’t be where it is right now without Bunnell’s dedication. The head coach has now won five state championships during his coaching career at Issaquah.
“We could not be more happy because he is the reason we’re here. Doing this for him (winning a state title) is one of the reasons we’re here. It is awesome,” Nelson explained. “We’ve been working for this all year. For most of us it’s our senior year (16 seniors on 2017 roster) and this is probably just the greatest thing most of us have ever been a part of. Winning state completely exemplifies how happy we are to play together as a team.”
Issaquah senior forward Mariah Van Halm, who found the back of the net in the 29th minute on a perfect ground ball shot into the left side of the goal, gave her team a 2-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the game.
“I’m so overwhelmed with joy. I haven’t cried so much in my life. It is the best feeling in the world,” Van Halm said just minutes after the game ended. “It is so surreal. I wouldn’t want to go out any other way.”
Bunnell said the Eagles’ undeniable team camaraderie played a pivotal role in attaining the pinnacle in the world of high school soccer.
“They all love each other. This is like movie stuff. It is amazing. I’m so proud of them. It is such a great team, such a great story and such a great school,” he said. “I”m so proud of what we’ve done as a program since I have been here, and all the cool kids I have coached. It makes me happy to leave like this. What a celebration this is.”