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Seton Catholic boys soccer team prevails under pressure of penalty kick shootout

Cougars defeat King's Way Christian 2-1 (4-3 PKs) to remain undefeated in Trico League

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 17, 2024, 1:00pm
6 Photos
Seton Catholic's Derebe Smith (8) goes up for the ball against King's Way Christian's Leif Evenson, left, during a Trico League boys soccer match on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Seton Catholic High School.
Seton Catholic's Derebe Smith (8) goes up for the ball against King's Way Christian's Leif Evenson, left, during a Trico League boys soccer match on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, at Seton Catholic High School. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Seton Catholic boys soccer team is growing accustomed to high-pressure situations, simply because the Cougars have been through a lot of them lately.

So when they were faced with a penalty kick shootout Tuesday against their top Trico League rival, King’s Way Christian, the Cougars were confident they would prevail.

Seton Catholic goalkeeper Zach Catherall had been in this position just a few weeks prior against King’s Way. Similar to that March 21 game, Catherall came up with a clutch save Tuesday in the fourth of five rounds to set up the Cougars for a win.

“I just try and take my time every time, stay calm throughout the moment, just appreciate the moment for what it is and just put my skills on the line,” Catherall said.

Seton’s Azriel Salcedo converted the winning penalty kick, on the heels of PKs from teammates Noah Kwong, Sam Soto and Eli Wall, to send the Cougars to a 2-1 win and improve to 7-0 in the Trico League. It was also the team’s 20th consecutive win against King’s Way, despite some recent close calls.

“It’s for sure always a hard game, we have a lot of history with this team,” said Wall, a senior midfielder. “In the past three years we’ve gone to PKs four times now, so we were used to it. Going to PKs, I think we were pretty confident, but still, we should have finished in the first half, second half (and) full time.”

While the Cougars were confident in their ability to finish, the feeling after the game was they shouldn’t have been in that position to begin with. King’s Way struck first in the 27th minute when Catherall saved a Luke Gomes shot on goal and Rylan Richter scored on a second-chance effort.

Seton refocused in the second half, owning a significant advantage in possession, and the team’s efforts were rewarded in the 66th minute when Tynan Young-Byle scored from a corner kick taken by Soto. A 1-1 tie at the end of regulation led to two scoreless overtime periods, which set up PKs.

“The first half was very disappointing. We didn’t play well, we kind of just stood and watched a lot of it,” Seton Catholic coach Antonio Buckley said. “In the second half we were pressuring them, we were in their half the whole time. Just couldn’t find one, but we were there and we felt like it was gonna come.”

That confidence has grown from recent experience. In addition to the four PK shootouts against King’s Way over the last three years, the Cougars also defeated the Knights in a come-from-behind effort that clinched a Class 1A state berth in last year’s district playoffs.

Seton also faced PK shootouts in the district championship against Montesano and once more in the state third-place game against Highland as the Cougars made a run to the final four.

“We’ve been in so many tough games the last three or four years that stuff like this doesn’t really bother them,” Buckley said. “Last year our run in state, we were so composed, so calm and focused on our goal. I think you kind of need that, because you can get frantic and stress about what’s going on. But these guys really focus and they’re competitors.”

The Cougars have three games remaining in their Trico League slate including Thursday against La Center and Tuesday, April 23 at Columbia-White Salmon. Their sights are set on a fourth consecutive league title and another deep postseason run.

“Going into this last stretch, we just have to make sure that we’re staying solid and keep improving so we’re ready for that state run,” Wall said.

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