Prep boys soccer: Thunderbirds stave off Tigers to reach state tourney


TUMWATER – Style points don’t exist in the playoffs.

And that rings true for the Tumwater High School boys soccer team. When their backs have been against the wall, they’ve responded to the challenge.

“I love an exciting game, but for the playoffs, I’d prefer not to,” attacker Dylan Stevens said. “A win is a win.”

In an all-Evergreen Conference matchup in a Class 2A District 4 elimination contest, the Thunderbirds held on at the end and triumphed over Centralia 3-2 on Thursday night at Tumwater District Stadium to return to the state tournament for the second straight season.

Brackets for the tourney are expected to be released before next week. The opening round kicks off on Tuesday.

“They weathered the storm,” Tumwater head coach John Hayes said. “I’m proud of the boys.”

It has been a postseason of survival for the Thunderbirds. They needed to fend off Hockinson in the quarterfinals despite building a three-goal lead with under 10 minutes left in regulation. They were blasted by defending state champion Columbia River 8-0 in the semis.

And they nearly blew another three-goal cushion at home versus the Tigers.

Yet Tumwater (10-8-1) rose up and its back line plus goalie Davyn McGilvrey didn’t wilt under the pressure once again.

“It was a team effort, to be honest,” McGilvrey said. “It really was the mids, forwards and defense that made my job easy. We all come from different backgrounds, but throughout the year, we decided to trust each other more.”

Centralia broke the ice on a free kick goal from Alan Vasquez in the 48th minute. That kickstarted a stretch where its total shots and chances started to increase.

The Tigers delivered plenty of long balls to their forwards and ran the sets through the center midfielders. Time and time again they were knocking on the door, ending up with 19 total shots.

“At some points, I thought we were the better team,” their head coach Noel Vasquez said. “We’re just a resilient (team).”

Freshman Damian Corona was fouled inside the box, awarded a penalty kick and fired it in the bottom corner to make it a one-goal deficit in the 67th minute. Centralia (11-8) finished with eight corner kicks, the final one a header that sailed just over the crossbar in stoppage time.

Once the final whistle sounded, Tumwater celebrated and the Tigers fell face down on the turf.

“We’ve been kind of a mix, some days we do it excellently and some days we've given up some we shouldn't,” Hayes said of defending corners. “We are tall and they’re confident. That is a strength.”

Hayes wanted to challenge the Thunderbirds in the non-league, setting up showdowns against 3A and 4A programs. A group that returned just two starters was being thrown into the fire early.

Even with a close to .500 record, Tumwater has been battle tested.

“Those are playoff caliber teams and it is just as hard in 2A,” Stevens said. “I think 2A is the hardest league. We got to work on locking the game down in the final minutes.”

Gavin Cuoio lit up the scoreboard with a bending free kick in the eighth minute for the T-Birds. After the Tigers had three chances at an equalizer in the closing minutes of the first half, Stevens buried a free kick goal in stoppage time to double the lead.

Malachi Vuong secured a rebound shot goal in the 45th minute.

“We work on set pieces a lot,” Hayes said. “It gives us an opportunity and that’s all we ask.”

McGilvrey posted a first half shutout donning a red practice jersey over his black game jersey. He stated afterwards he may bring it back for the state tournament.

Regardless of the matchup, Tumwater players and coaches are aiming for a complete game which has been absent to this point in May.

“Maybe this is a good luck charm,” McGilvrey added. “Obviously, (we) have something to prove.”

Centralia will be revamped next spring with the loss of 12 seniors, but stout keeper Alejandro Arevalo is expected to anchor the 2025 unit. Coach Vasquez feels the building blocks that were set this spring will push the program forward.

Plus, there was strong community support in the stands on Thursday.

“I let them know how proud I am of them,” Vasquez said. “This is just the beginning of something special we’re building in ‘C’ Town. The seniors fought for us and the younger guys got to taste it.”