Mountain View soccer players rescue season

After slow start, Thunder have won their last nine games

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant sports editor

Published:

 

On their way home from practice last week, three Mountain View soccer players spotted a woman who had collapsed on the sidewalk while walking her dog.

photoTeam captain Brandon Brooks, left, says Mountain View's turnaround was about desire.

(/The Columbian)

Buy this photo

The Thunder players didn't panic, sprung into action and worked together to produce a positive result.

Ngawang Choephel, one of the team's three team captains, called 911. Sophomore Isaac Strever retrieved the dog, while Rylan Berriman, another team captain, stayed with the woman until emergency services arrived.

After hearing the story, Mountain View coach Jeff Brooks was not surprised. He knows the quality of the young men playing for him and how well they work together.

"Whenever we play a game, people will ask 'Who was the star of the game?' " Brooks said. "And I'll say 'They all were. They all played a role in the success of the team.' "

That's true both on and off the field.

Last month, it was the Thunder's postseason hopes that were in immediate need of assistance.

Mountain View was 2-3-1 and in the lower half of the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League standings.

"We had basically the same team as last year," Choephel said. "But we added some younger players who were still learning our system. And it took six games to get used to it."

Senior Brandon Brooks, the Thunder's third team captain, said the change in the team's fortune was all about desire.

"I think we got tired of losing," he said. "We got tired of playing teams like Camas and getting our rear ends handed to us."

The Thunder haven't lost since. It started with a 3-1 win April 17 over Camas, ranked No. 1 at the time. It would be followed by five more league wins.

Then came a win over Decatur of Federal Way in the bi-district playoff, a first-round win at state over Lakeside of Seattle -- both ranked in the top 10 in the state.

"The Camas win (in league) was a big win for us because it showed us that we could compete with anyone in the state," Jeff Brooks said. "I'm not a big fan of rankings. But the kids like them. It gets them fired up. And we've beat every ranked team we've played this season."

And that speaks to the slogan on team's website "Unranked. Unmatched."

"We were a completely different team in the second half of league than we were in the first half," Jeff Brooks said. "And I think some teams took us lightly. They might still be taking us lightly."

The win over Lakeside set up another meeting with Camas, ranked No. 2 in the state.

And when the Papermakers seized a 1-0 lead, things did not look good for the Thunder.

But, again, they didn't panic, they focused on what they needed to do, then worked together to produce a positive result.

"At first, my mindset was kind of crazy," Choephel said. "I had missed some opportunities earlier in the game and now we were down 1-0 with 20 minutes to go. But Coach calmed me down, and then we talked about playing our game, keeping the ball low and attacking."

Marshall Hartley delivered the tying goal five minutes later, then Choephel put the Thunder on top to stay with 11 minutes to play.

Choephel said there wasn't any added motivation in playing Camas a third time. But playing Camas had one advantage. It meant a game close to home and an opportunity to get a large Thunder rooting section at Doc Harris Stadium.

"We got a lot people out for that game," Brandon Brooks said. "Afterwards, I had a lot of people tell me they should have come to more of our games. They're fun."

The fun continues Friday when the Thunder face No. 5 Bainbridge in the 3A semifinal at 1 p.m. at Puyallup's Sparks Stadium. A win Friday would put them into the title game Saturday.

"For seniors like us, this is a dream come true, something we've been waiting four years for," Brandon Brooks said. "And now we just want to go out and bring Mountain View's fourth state title and the first this century."