It is simple math.
At least that is how South Kitsap coach Cory Vartanian felt after his team tied Stadium, 2-all, April 28 in a Class 4A Narrows League match at Joe Knowles Field.
“We have to win out,” he said. “We’ve put ourselves in this position. It’s unfortunate.”
The Wolves (5-7-4 overall, 4-5-3) appeared to have secured the win until senior midfielder Bryce Ikeda scored in the 76th minute. By Vartanian’s count, that is the fifth late goal his team has surrendered in a league contest that has cost them points. South is fifth in 4A Narrows with four league contests remaining.
“The last 15 minutes of the game we put the brakes on,” Vartanian said. “We give up a cross [for a goal] on a spot foul. The guy was unmarked. It was a lack of communication in the back.”
For Vartanian, it was an amalgamation of the season where “inconsistency” has been a buzzword. Too often, he said, the Wolves play well for 15 minutes only to lapse into a funk.
Junior forward Zane Leines gave the Tigers (3-4-6, 2-4-3) a 1-0 lead in the 33rd.
“I thought the last 25 minutes of the half we were flat,” Vartanian said. “Defensively, I thought that we were a bit soft in the back. We were giving their forwards too much space.”
At times, South’s coaching staff has used halftime to make significant personnel and strategic adjustments. But Vartanian had a different message for his team against Stadium at the intermission.
“It was more just motivation — telling the kids we’ve got to win this game,” he said.
That message appeared to resonate when junior forward Dylan Peterson beat sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Naylor in a one-on-one situation in the 41st.
“It was just a quick counter,” Vartanian said. “We sent a long ball through, Dylan outran the defender and tucked it away.”
Thirteen minutes later, the Wolves took a 2-1 lead when junior midfielder/forward Kristian Hernandez beat Naylor with a shot into the right corner of the net.
“They were two momentum goals,” Vartanian said.
“I just wish we had carried that through the second half. For whatever reason, we get complacent. You can’t do that against any team in this conference.”
And South has little time to figure that out. Only the top three teams in 4A Narrows advance to the district tournament. Vartanian acknowledges his team will need help to advance to the postseason, specifically others beating third-place Olympia, but feels confident his team can secure wins down the stretch.
“We’re a great team,” Vartanian said. “We have proven that we can play against anyone. We’re just telling the kids to stay positive. The season isn’t over.”
At South Kitsap 2, Stadium 2
First half-1, Stadium, Zane Leines, 33rd minute.
Second half-2, South Kitsap, Dylan Peterson (Kristian Hernandez), 41st; 3, South Kitsap, Hernandez (Isaac Sterling), 54th; 4, Stadium, Bryce Ikeda, 76th.