PUYALLUP — Opportunistic and determined, the Union Titans fought their way into the Class 4A boys soccer state championship with a stirring effort on Friday.
Tyler Shadix and Nathaniel Cheney got on the end of two long forward balls, scoring the goals that propelled Union to a 2-1 win over Roosevelt of Seattle in a semifinal match at Sparks Stadium. Union faces Thomas Jefferson at 4 p.m. Saturday in the state championship match.
"It's a game of small margins. It's a game of chances," Union coach Kelcey Burris said. "We were able to get onto two of our chances, and were able to move on."
Union took a 1-0 lead in the 45th minute. Tyler Shadix scored the goal, pouncing on a loose ball and heading it into the goal after Roosevelt goalkeeper Julien Leveque did not cleanly field a free kick that Mitch Wheelon took 62 yards from goal.
"I know Tyler goes up and gets those balls if I put them near the keeper," said Wheelon, describing the free kick play that has produced several goals this season.
"Mitch just played a perfect ball," Shaddix said. "Then it was just 50-50 between me and the keeper. He could barely get get fingers on it, and I poked it through."
Roosevelt pleaded for a foul against Shadix in his airborne battle with Leveque, but the goal stood.
The lead, however, did not last long.
Four minutes later, Roosevelt's Tucker Olsen unleashed a screamer from 30 yards that eluded the grasp of Union keeper Pasha Hashemi and spun just inside the post to tie the score.
Union then shifted its formation, pushing Cheney from midfield to forward moments before he scored the winning goal.
Cheney beat Leveque and two chasing defenders to the ball and from just inside the penalty area kicked it cleanly into the goal with 22:41 left in the second half.
"When it's up in the air like that, it's anyone's ball. You've just got to follow it and then you get chances like that and put them away," Cheney said. "I've made the mistake before of trying to think and over-calculate. You can't think about it. Just let your reactions take over."
Roosevelt threw plenty of pressure at Union right from the start of the game and clear until the final whistle. The Roughriders outshot Union 14-8, including 6-2 on goal. They took nine corner kicks. The Titans took none.
"They really did put up a fight, especially after we went up a goal," Shadix said. "But we just stayed composed and didn't break down."
In addition to six saves by Hashemi, defender Erik Miletich blocked a ball from close range inside the final 10 minutes.
"The kids fought and scrapped for the last 15 minutes there to get the win," Burris said.