TUMWATER — W.F. West soccer coach Allen Anderson knows full well what it takes to get to the state tournament. After all, he was a sophomore on the last Bearcats team to qualify for state in 1998.
Now at the helm, Anderson and his Bearcats nearly clinched their berth for the first time in 24 years, but couldn’t quite overcome 2A Evergreen Conference champion and rival Tumwater in a 1-0 loss in the 2A District IV semifinals on Thursday at Tumwater District Stadium.
“We just need to find our chemistry,” Anderson said. “This is the first time any of these boys have ever been in a situation where they’ve had an opportunity to go to state.
“I think we came out a little nervous and flustered in the beginning against a team that’s used to being in this situation.”
In what was a back-and-forth battle, it was the Thunderbirds who finally broke a 0-0 stalemate in 48th minute when junior forward Zachary Schmidt placed a shot just past Bearcat junior keeper Hayden Sciera’s outstretched fingers in what would end up being the game-winning goal.
Sciera played out of his mind to keep W.F. West in it, making a slew of crowd-pleasing diving and leaping saves.
“Hayden was absolutely outstanding tonight,” Anderson said. “They made a shot that was unsavable, but he saved everything that was close to him other than that. If he wouldn’t have had the game he had, it would have been way worse.”
Senior captain defender Isaac Madrigal also put together an impressive performance on the back line, using a cluster of crafty moves to clear balls, including a few headers when the Thunderbirds were threatening near goal. He was especially dominant in one-on-one situations.
“He had an unbelievable game on the back line clearing everything that came in to him,” Anderson said. “He really stood out for us today. We’ve just got to get all levels of the team playing at that same intensity and effort.”
W.F. West now moves on to face EvCo foe Aberdeen in a loser-out, winner-to-state match in Aberdeen on Saturday at a time yet to be determined.
The Bearcats were swept by the Bobcats in league play this season, falling in a PK shootout in the first matchup and then 2-1 in the second match. The Bearcats led until the 65th minute in the second game before surrendering two quick goals.
It should be another battle with the Bobcats for a state bid
“I don’t know if it was from playing two nights ago and traveling or what, but it didn’t feel like ourselves tonight,” Anderson said. “But we’ll learn from it, and we have one more opportunity Saturday and hopefully we’ll get it done.”
Tumwater will now play Greater St. Helen’s League champion and top-ranked Columbia River — a team that is undefeated — for the district championships at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Tumwater District Stadium.