Union stifled in 4A soccer state title match

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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PUYALLUP — The Union Titans played a lot of quality soccer to reach the Class 4A state championship match. But on Saturday, there was no matching the quality of the Thomas Jefferson Raiders.

Dominating possession and playing most of the match in the attacking third of the field, Jefferson of Auburn beat Union 3-0 to win the school's eighth boys soccer state championship.

"They're the best team in the state, for sure," Union senior midfielder Collin Wong said. "We would've had to do something magical to beat them."

Union, which posted the first three state tournament wins in school history to reach the final match, finished with 16 wins, three losses and four draws — and a second-place state trophy.

"Unfortunately, we didn't get the championship," Union senior goalkeeper Pasha Hashemi said. "But I couldn't be more proud of my boys, and at least we get a trophy for the cabinet."

Hashemi was plenty busy throughout the match, finishing with 11 saves as the Raiders kept possession in the attacking third for extended stretches.

Jefferson took 17 shots at goal in each half. Two of their 34 shots hit the goal frame, and 14 others were on target.

Jefferson (18-0-4) posted its 13th shutout of the season.

Despite dominating possession, the Raiders' lead 55 minutes into the match was only 1-0.

In the 56th minute, Jefferson's Brandon Madsen made a nice move on the right side of the penalty area to create a chance for Luis Alvaro Osornio. Hashemi got a hand on his shot, but Madsen was in position for an easy finish.

"Today, we didn't come out on the right side of the bounce," Hashemi said. "The second goal, I thought I had it. I got that touch and the guy was there to put it away. Right place, right time. There's only so much you can do."

On Saturday, there was not much the Titans could do to put the Raiders on the defensive. Union was credited with only two shots, one on goal. They earned only one corner kick and had only a couple of free kicks. For a team that thrived on scoring from such opportunities, the few chances to flood the penalty area with attacker was frustrating.

"The best team we've played all season, for sure," senior defender Erik Miletich said. "It was chippy out there, and we did everything we could, but it just didn't fall into place."

The first goal came in the 21st minute on a nice combination play off of a throw-in. Matthew Cruz spun behind a defender and collected a lofted pass from Rodrigo Robles that gave Cruz a shot from 10 yards that Hashemi had no chance to stop.

Union coach Kelcey Burris noted that Jefferson's second-half goals came after the Titans tried to shift players forward in an attempt to tie the score.

That was definitely the case on the third Jefferson goal, a nice counter-attack passing combination that ended with Luis Alvaro Osornio scoring off an assist from Cruz.

In the end, all The Titans could do is credit the Raiders and reflect on a fun run to the championship match.

"It was an amazing run," senior defender Gabe Martin said. "I love the boys that I played with. I wouldn't change a thing about it."

Burris would have loved a crowning finish for a senior-laden squad that helped Union win two league titles, two district titles, and this season won three state tournament matches.

"Second place at state is a great accomplishment for our young program, and hopefully we can build upon this in the future," Burris said.