The Mustangs made it to state for the first time since 2007, and their looking for their first state win since 1986 when they play North Thurston.
It was the moment of truth for wide-eyed sophomores Jacen Stein and Ricardo Escalante.
A heartbreaking golden-goal defeat for the young Redmond High School boys soccer players shook their foundation and set in motion an initiative to turn around the program.
The team was tired of getting stepped on.
Boys state soccer
When: Tuesday and Wednesday, first-round state matches; quarterfinals are Friday and Saturday; state semifinals are May 25 and state championship matches May 26.
Where: Various sites around the state.
Follow along: @TimesPrepsMattM; @WIAAWA.
Top story lines: Led by midfielder Sam Johnson (14 goals, 12 assists), Archbishop Murphy goes for a state-best-tying fourth state title in a row when it opens 2A play Tuesday. The Wildcats, who had a 50-match win streak in Cascade Conference play end earlier this season, will attempt to equal the streak of four state crowns set by Jefferson of Federal Way from 1983-86. ... Roosevelt (18-1-0, 14 shutouts) shoots for back-to-back titles in 3A after going 15-0 against Metro League opponents in the regular season. The Roughriders, ranked No. 4 nationally in the USA Today Super 25 rankings, outscored Metro foes 52-4 and finished as the runner-up in the Metro tournament to Garfield. ... Skyline (13-1-3) reached state for the ninth season in a row, grabbing KingCo 4A’s No. 1 seed by upending regular-season champion Issaquah 1-0 Friday. ... Senior goalkeeper Ethan Saarenas of 3A Stadium (14-1-2) joins his mom, Robyn, in state-tournament action, but as part of different teams. Coach Robyn Saarenas led Auburn Riverside (14-2-2) into the 4A field.
Top five players: F Elliot Misic, Shorecrest, Sr. (24 goals, 10 assists); MF Avery Jacobson, Roosevelt, Sr. (13 goals, 5 assists); F/M Zakery Gregg, Beamer, Jr. (18 goals, 15 assists); GK Ryan Davies, Roosevelt, Jr. (14 shutouts, 0.29 goals-against average); F Owen Gortner, Interlake, Sr. (12 goals, 7 assists).
Favorites: 4A: Pasco, Puyallup, Sumner, Beamer (defending champs). 3A: Roosevelt (defending champs), Garfield, Marysville-Pilchuck, Stadium. 2A: Columbia River, Bellingham, Franklin Pierce, Archbishop Murphy (defending champs). 1A: Overlake, Vashon, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), Royal.
Note: With center midfielder JJ Allen (15 goals, 10 assists) healthy after an ankle injury, Beamer is playing its best soccer of the season and could make a run at state after collecting the school’s first state crown in the sport in 2017. The Titans eliminated Union of Vancouver 5-4 on Zakery Gregg’s golden goal in overtime Saturday.
In one short year, it seems that the two juniors — Stein, a forward, and Escalante, the starting goalkeeper — have followed through on a promise to make the Mustangs relevant again. Redmond (14-3-0) won the KingCo 3A/2A regular-season title and with the shootout victory last week over perennial power Mercer Island — thanks to a 4-3 edge in penalty kicks — gave the program its first state berth since 2007.
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“The boys are making a point that they have a say in how things go,” Mustangs coach Lacy Wilkinson said. “I think one thing that’s helped us is that the boys have felt really disrespected. We get a lot of the blue bloods of the programs around who have kind of overlooked us.
“That chip on the shoulder has helped the kids a lot this year. That goes a long ways.”
Falling short really stung in 2017 as their season ended at 8-10-0 and short of the state playoffs.
When the Class 3A state tournament begins Tuesday, the Mustangs are more than happy to be part of the 16-team event.
Last year, walking off the field after a confidence-shaking 3-2 overtime defeat against Interlake in a loser-out KingCo playoff match, the revelations began.
After shedding some tears, Stein and Escalante vowed to make things different going forward.
“I just remember talking to Ricardo after that very tough loss to Interlake, saying that we never wanted to feel like that again,” Stein said. “We walked off the field and there were some tears. We just didn’t want to feel like that again. Never again.”
Escalante has supplied eight shutouts and helped the Mustangs with a 43-13 advantage in goals. He also made two big saves in the state-clinching victory over Mercer Island.
“I just remember Jacen saying, ‘The work starts today and we’re going to start our journey to get a (league championship) ring,’ ” Escalante said.
Now, the Mustangs are enjoying their first winning season in three years.
“We gained a lot of motivation from that loss,” said Stein, who has 14 goals and eight assists. “We are just playing a more controlled style than last year when we kicked the ball up the field a lot. And our chemistry is just a lot better.”
Wilkinson, in his third year as the Mustangs’ coach, will reserve judgment on how far the program has come until the season’s complete.
“We’ve taken a more holistic approach in general with the program, where the C team, the JV team and the varsity are all integrated together and all feed into the varsity,” he said. “We have the same philosophy, the same style, the same drills and everything is similar in the program. That way the players can plug in and they know what to do when they move up a level. The uniformity of the system has helped a lot.”
If Redmond can post a victory in its state opener Tuesday at 7 p.m. against North Thurston (14-3-0), it will mark the first time the Mustangs have won a state match since beating Mariner in 1986 in a 4A state opener.
“It’s exciting to be in this position,” Stein said.