When was the last time a Blaine High School boys soccer team made it to the state tournament?
“It’s been forever,” said athletic coordinator Steve Miller, and that’s no exaggeration – the game against King’s High School on May 20 was the first state tournament match in the history of Blaine boys soccer.
Blaine lost the game at King’s High School in Seattle 2–0, ending a season that coaches, athletes and fans hope will be a
turning point for the program.
Getting to state is an accomplishment for any team, but it’s even more impressive considering how far the boys soccer team has come. Last year the team went 3–13–0, and two years before that, when the current seniors were freshmen, the team didn’t win a single game. Blaine ended the 2014 season 8–10–4.
What caused the drastic change? Head coach Gio Quesada sums it up with one word: belief.
“The players believed in each other, I believed in them, the family, friends and fans who came to every match believed in them – that was the key all season,” Quesada said.
There was no shortage of belief in the Borderites during the loser-out state tournament game against King’s, but Blaine fell short of upsetting their powerhouse opponents. The Knights lead the Cascade Conference in scoring, and are on an 11-game winning streak.
In terms of ball possession, the game was a story of opposite halves. The Knights pressured the Borderites early, peppering the net with shots before putting one away in the 12th minute. They held their one-point lead with confidence throughout the first half, controlling the midfield and preventing the Borderites from getting scoring opportunities.
In the second half, Blaine played much better possession and even controlled momentum for a majority of the half.
“We moved some players around and tried to play more aggressively. The players worked hard and had some very close opportunities,” Quesada said.
The aggressive strategy was risky because it left Blaine’s defense vulnerable, but the three defenders in the backfield held off every onslaught while the Blaine offense pounded their opponents’ net. But in the final three minutes of the game, the Knights broke through the Blaine defense and scored their second goal, sealing the victory and sending the Borderites home heartbroken.
“I know how bad the team wanted to win this. They were playing for each other and for everyone who has supported them all season. I know they are disappointed with the loss, but I’m so proud of how the kids played this game. They played at a really high level; there was good chemistry between the players and great energy – I feel really glad and happy because I think the kids played their best,” Quesada said.
The Borderites made it to the state tournament by upsetting South Whidbey in the final round of the Class 1A Tri-District tournament May 15. As much as any other game this season, that win represented the best of Borderite soccer for Quesada.
“It was a classic game,” he said. “We came from behind and the kids never gave up.”
The Falcons scored in the first 10 minutes of the game, and despite herculean effort, Blaine couldn’t answer for almost the rest of the game – that is, until Garren Economy scored on a beautiful free kick in the 74th minute to tie it up.
The Borderites went on to win the game in a shootout. Shooting from the penalty line, Konner Van Rijswick, Nick Butschli, Economy and John Cochran each scored for Blaine, while keeper Tristan Hunter saved two shots to secure the win.
“I don’t usually name names for the player of the match, but Tristan [Hunter] won it for us,” Quesada said. “He had three amazing saves in regulation and those two saves in overtime – it’s not easy to save a penalty kick.”
The win propelled the team to uncharted territory. The team was the first from Blaine to make it to the Class 1A State Boys’ Soccer Tournament. Despite losing in the first round, Quesada said he is more than satisfied with how the season turned out.
“It was really great to make it this far and get to state. I can’t say enough about this team – how the seniors led everyone to work together and play their hardest in every game. How they all believed in each other and banded together.
I’m really going to miss this senior class, but I think they set a great example and we’ll be able to build on this success. I also want to thank the assistant coaches, team managers and family and fans for all the support – there’s no way I could have done this on my own.”