BURIEN – Paul Rothrock buzzes around opponents, frustrating them. That is how he earned the nickname “Gnat man.”
Ultimately, the undersized freshman midfielder wins with persistence and an un-endearing nagging quality.
The pesky and diminutive Rothrock teamed with senior speedster Gaby Joseph for two goals as seventh-ranked Lakeside topped ninth-ranked Kennedy Catholic 2-1 in the Class 3A state quarterfinals at Highline Stadium.
Rothrock, moved from outside midfielder to central mid after regular field general Wyatt Paul was lost to injury before the playoffs, and Joseph both finished with a goal and an assist as the Lions advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2008.
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“It’s really easy to find Gaby because he’s the fastest kid in the league, so why not play [the ball] to him,” said Rothrock, who now has five goals and eight assists this season. “Moving to the middle, I’m obviously getting the ball a lot more.”
Joseph hiked his team highs of 16 goals and nine assists. He appreciates his hard-working freshman teammate, who played a big role in the Lions going up 2-0 in the opening 31 minutes.
“He’s the future of Lakeside soccer,” said Joseph, who plans to walk on at Princeton next school year. “Since the beginning of the year, I kind of got to take him under my wing. He’s a great kid, and he’s a really confident kid.”
In the first half, with Rothrock leading the charge for Lakeside, the Lions pestered the Lancers into submission.
“Paul Rothrock is a great little player,” Lakeside coach Mark Szabo said. “He’s always in there troubling people. He’s such an intelligent player. It’s like you can’t get rid of him. We love him, and he sets up a lot of opportunities for us with great passes.
“Kennedy came after us in the second half, because they had to. They made it a challenge for us. We just survived.”
Lakeside (14-2-2) plays the Ingraham (11-4-4)-Shorewood (13-3-4) winner on Friday in the state semifinals at 4 p.m. at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup. It will be the Lions’ sixth berth in the state semis as a state title in boys soccer has eluded them.
Kennedy Catholic, despite coming alive and playing a physical second half, concluded the season 14-2-5.
“I told the guys they needed to watch Gaby up top,” JFK coach Teddy Mitalas said. “They got us. You could see the maturity of their team, and they have better players. You can’t hide that.”