KingCo champs lose 3-1 in first state game
With Juanita’s state tournament hopes fading late in its first game last week, Rebels’ coach Kevin Lamb laid out one last gauntlet for star senior Tyler Bjork.
“I told him with 20 minutes left in the game, ‘Here’s your chance to become the hero, go out and do it,’” Lamb said. “He wants to take it all on his shoulders.”
Bjork came through time and time again for the Rebels this season. His latest feat, a hat trick against Eastlake on May 6, propelled his team to a KingCo championship and a trip to the state tournament.
But in the state tournament against Olympia, things didn’t finally stopped going his way. Shots that went in just last week flew just high or wide. After the final whistle sounded in the Rebels’ 3-1 season-ending loss to Olympia on May 13, Bjork fell to the turf.
Juanita coach Kevin Lamb went to help him up. Through clinched teeth he told Lamb, “I was supposed to be the hero and I wasn’t. I let the team down.”
Making things difficult against Olympia, Bjork fought through the usual assortment of physical coverage he’s come to know through his time at Juanita.
“He was the KingCo MVP his sophomore year,” Lamb said. “From that day forward everyone’s known who he is. He’s used to working with someone draped all over him.”
It looked to be business as usual for the Rebels early in the game. Bjork got the ball close to the baseline and put a cross in to an open Garrett Lee, who buried a close-range shot for a 1-0 ninth-minute lead.
But Olympia showed why they belong in the tournament, as the Bear’s Zachry Naccarato leveled the score less than six minutes later with an assist by Zachary Brown.
Later, Juanita goalkeeper Seth Kuhns made a diving save, but stayed down with a kick to the groin. He got up and stayed in the game, but seemed to be affected for a few minutes.
In that time Brown kicked in a long goal from about 25 yards out.
“That was definitely an after effect,” Lamb said. “The kick wasn’t anything spectacular. I would expect him [Kuhns] to get that.”
Kuhns, however, made a number of acrobatic saves and kept the Rebels within striking distance until the end. In a post-game meeting, the team voted Kuhns as honorable mention for player of the game. Senior defender Max Purpus received that honor in his last appearance for Juanita.
Lamb said Olympia was simply more experienced than Juanita. Taking advantage of a physical-style allowed by the referee, the bigger Bears simply out-muscled the Rebels near the goal.
“It was a state tournament game and he [the center referee] let the teams decide it, and he was consistent throughout the game,” Lamb said. “I think all in all, they were more experienced, bigger and stronger.”
Lamb said the underclassmen on the team can look forward to building the Juanita program. For the seniors, looking at the bright side was tough. Lamb told them to concentrate on this season and what it will mean for Juanita’s program in the future.
“We created this program,” Lamb said. “You’ve got to remember everything you’ve accomplished here. This season was a ridiculously good season for Juanita… We are a soccer power right now and we will continue to be one.”