The Union Titans started on their toes, played some heady soccer, and powered their way into the Class 4A state tournament Saturday with a 3-1 win over Rogers from Puyallup at McKenzie Stadium.
Tyler Shadix scored twice in the first half-hour, and Nathaniel Cheney added a second-half goal as the Titans earned a second trip to the boys soccer state tournament.
Union (13-2-4) will travel to Yakima to face Davis in the first round. That match will likely be played on Wednesday.
Shadix, a defender, opened the scoring when he headed home a free kick taken by Mitch Wheelon from near the center of the field.
“That was huge. It set the tone for the entire game,” Shadix said. “When we’ve gotten those early, it’s really carried us through games.”
Starting quickly was a point of emphasis for the Titans, Cheney said. He was part of a midfield that won a good share of possession battles.
Coming off a second loss to Camas on Wednesday — only the Papermakers have beaten the Titans this season — Union needed a better beginning to this loser-out game.
“We just realized that we needed to stay focused,” Cheney said of the Titans’ reaction to the loss at Camas. “We can’t get caught on our heels. We have a tendency to come out slow. We just can’t do that anymore. It’s playoff season. We can’t get caught on our heels.”
Rogers seemed to be reeling in the 30th minute when Shadix made it 2-0 Titans. He converted from the penalty spot after a foul on the Rams during a Union corner kick.
But the visitors answered quickly. Spencer Nakamura scored an unassisted goal in the 32nd minute, making the score 2-1.
Eight minutes after halftime, Union nearly extended the lead, but Cheney’s diving header at the end of a Ashton Rimer cross flew just wide of the target.
“We really focused on winning balls in the midfield which allowed us to go forward and really attack,” Cheney said.
Cheney didn’t miss his next chance, putting away a rebound after Collin Wong ripped a shot off the crossbar.
Union goalkeeper Pasha Hashemi had to make only two saves in the victory. He helped keep the Titans’ defense organized and alert throughout the game.
Rogers made a few dangerous forays over the final 29 minutes of the contest. But the Rams’ chances were hurt by losing a player to a second yellow card, not the ideal way to mount a comeback on an 85 degree afternoon.
“It’s hot for everybody,” Shadix said of conditions on the field. “It was a factor for sure. Both teams started to break down. Especially when they lost a player with a red card, our fitness really paid off. They started to break down a lot.”