With six minutes left in regulation Tuesday night at Lampson Stadium, the Kennewick boys soccer team could almost taste the first state win in program history.
Holding on to a 1-0 lead and with Geo Vazquez — the Lions’ best shooter — lining up a penalty kick for a potential two-goal lead, a Kennewick trip to the 3A state quarterfinals seemed imminent.
Twenty minutes later, however, the Kennewick players made the long, slow walk back to their locker room after watching Mt. Spokane put four shots into the back of the net in a 4-2 shootout win.
Vazquez missed the penalty kick, and later watched Wildcats goalkeeper Robert Powles stop his second-round spot kick in the shootout. It was more than the senior captain could bear.
“I just felt bad. Kennewick could have ended the game with that penalty kick,” Vazquez said. “We were creating a lot of chances. We just couldn’t put them away, and I feel like I’m the one to blame.”
His teammates and coaches would beg to differ.
“Without him, we’re not even having this conversation,” Kennewick coach Brian Gochoel said.
Vazquez, who had seven goals and 15 assists this season, was one of the biggest reasons for the Lions being in the state playoffs. He put several of his teammates in position to score. His first-half cross from the left wing left Sam Borja with an open net from the right wing. But Borja’s shot rang off the right post.
Vazquez delivered a pass from the left wing to Angel Garcia in the 49th minute, and Garcia did the rest. The senior defender had been moved up to forward to begin the second half and fought through four defenders before knocking a shot past Powles for a 1-0 lead.
“(Garcia’s) maybe the best athlete on the team, and we wanted to give Mt. Spokane a different look,” Gochoel said.
The score held until the 78th minute, when Wildcats forward Jack Gularte found Zach Koller on a run down the right hash with plenty of space to set up a shot.
“We were trying to drive the ball up and play it across the field as fast as possible,” Koller said. “I was crashing on the back side, so when Jack sent the ball in, it was just me and the keeper.”
Koller took one touch to settle the ball and then drove it past Henry Hernandez to tie the score at 1.
“How do I describe it? Excitement, relief and me screaming, ‘Get back on defense!’ ” Mt. Spokane coach Ryan Campanella said. “I kind of thought it would come down to shooters, and I already had my five picked out.”
In the shootout, David Covarrubias connected on his first shot for Kennewick, but Powles made a save on Vazquez in the second round and Garcia’s third-round shot sailed over the cross bar. That left the door wide open for the Wildcats to earn their first-ever state win in boys soccer.
“We never lost hope. They’re a very good team,” Koller said. “It took 100 percent of our effort and some luck to beat them.”
It was a redemptive win at that after taking a 4-1 loss to Kennewick in the CBBN/Greater Spokane League 3A regional semifinals a week ago in Spokane.
“Down one goal in a hostile environment, I told them all it takes is one goal to change the tide,” Campanella said. “We might not get 20 shots on goal, but we can convert the ones we do get.”
Mt. Spokane (12-5) will travel to the Apple Bowl in Wenatchee to face CBBN 3A champion Eastmont in the state quarterfinals at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Kennewick outshot the Wildcats 30-8 but couldn’t put enough shots on frame to come out ahead.
“Anytime you create your own chances again and again, you have to capitalize. Shot advantage doesn’t mean squat. That’s the hard reality of tournament play,” Gochoel said. “Credit Mt. Spokane for their tenacious spirit and for just staying competitive.”
Kennewick will feel the sting of this loss for a while, but Gochoel put a big-picture perspective on the moment.“I lose five seniors, but we’ve got 14 coming back that can draw on this experience,” he said. “Our best soccer is still in front of us.”
Scoring—1, K, Angel Garcia (Geo Vazquez), 49:00; 2, MtS, Zach Koller (Jack Gularte), 78:00. Shootout goals (shootout score here)—MtS, David Covarrubias, Ramiro Chavez. K, Koller, Kameron Kelly, Logan Georgeadis, Ross Mader. Shots—MtS 8, K 30. Saves—MtS, Robert Powles 7. K, Henry Hernandez 3.