PUYALLUP — Losses don’t get much tougher to swallow than the one Union went through Thursday in the Class 4A bi-district boys soccer championship.
After Union’s Garik Shevchuk scored the tying goal against Puyallup five minutes into the second half at Sparks Stadium, the two teams were deadlocked at 1-1 at the end of 80 minutes and an extra 10 minutes of overtime.
That meant the Titans would be playing in their second penalty kick shootout in as many games, following a 5-4 win over top seed Bellarmine Prep in the semifinal round.
This one was different not only in the final result, but simply, how long it lasted.
Puyallup won 13-12 after a total of 36 penalty kicks were taken between the two squads and a marathon for goalkeepers Rory McDonald of Union and Nathan Vitzthum of Puyallup. Liam Stoner put through the final shot to clinch the win for the Vikings.
Puyallup’s championship victory snapped a 14-match unbeaten streak for Union, which started in March, two weeks into the regular season, and lasted through two rounds of bi-districts, which guaranteed the Titans a berth into the 4A state tournament.
“What we take from this is anything can happen in a game,” Union head coach Jason Moore said. “Next week, that’s when the season starts. Because you lose, you go home. That’s what we’ve been playing for.”
As the Titans were licking their wounds afterward, still disappointed in the final result, they also came to the realization that by losing the championship, they now have a substantial chip on their shoulder.
“This just added the most fuel to the fire,” Shevchuk said. “Losing a big game in front of all these people in such an unfortunate situation, because it is PKs and no one likes to lose in PKs.”
Puyallup’s Roby Hooper scored the Vikings’ lone goal in the fifth minute of regulation, on a deflected corner kick that bounced out to a wide open Hooper for a long-distance strike.
Union’s goal by Shevchuk, assisted by Isaiah Bunda, was the first of several promising scoring chances the Titans had in the second half, but were only able to put one past Puyallup’s Vitzhum.
In the penalty kick shootout, the two teams remained tied after cycling through all 10 of their shooters. So on the 11th attempt, McDonald and Vitzthum both stepped up to take a shot against each other, and both converted.
The PKs continued at the top of the order, which led to the 16th attempt for each team. Vitzthum punched away Union’s attempt on goal, before Stoner put through the winning shot for Puyallup.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Moore said. “We generated a ton of opportunities and we just didn’t capitalize. There were four (attacks) where I was already celebrating, because those guys, I know they can finish (and) they usually do … I told the Puyallup coach his keeper was MVP of the game, because he pulled some things out that I didn’t think he would. So kudos to him.”
Seedings for the 16 teams qualifying for the 4A state tournament will be determined Sunday by a seeding committee, which Moore sits on.
Union came into the week ranked No. 2 in the statewide 4A RPI and beat the No. 1, Bellarmine Prep, in the bi-district semifinals.
Still, the Titans won’t be certain until Sunday if they earned a top four seed, which would guarantee hosting at least one match, and a second with a win, before the final four is held at Sparks Stadium, the same venue as Thursday’s game.
“I think the guys, what they’re upset about is, it’s now an argument,” Moore said of Union earning a top-four seed. “Whereas if we won, there’s no argument.”
That part is out of Union’s control, but an opportunity is still in front of the Titans. The question now becomes, how will they respond to a rare defeat?
“The ultimate goal is that state tournament, that state championship,” Shevchuk said. “Yeah, it’s an unfortunate defeat, but (we need to) keep going, get better and prove to everyone that we should be number one.”