CK Cougars win district, set sights on surprising at state

Another instant classic in an unforgettable year for Central Kitsap soccer ended with jubilation on the turf of Auburn Memorial Stadium May 9 as senior goalie Carson LeBeau’s lights-out performance and junior Joshua Voce’s winning shootout goal against Silas clinched a 1-0 (5-4) victory and a district title for the Cougars.

It was pandemonium the split second Voce’s shot hit the net, fans roaring as players spilled onto the field to mob their hero teammates while coach Patrick Leonard found himself embracing just about every player.

You would think the Cougars had just won state, but this match was to Leonard’s club another victory against the adversity he said it has faced all year.

“This group did not walk into much of this season a favorite of anything,” he said. “We’re young, we lost a lot of our guys last year. These guys, they just bought into the program. They bought into the standards, the plan of who we are and what we’re going to do.”

Voce recalled the moments after the winning shot, happy tears in his eyes as his coach gave him a bear hug. “We’ve been talking about this the whole season, we’ve been working hard to get here. Our coach puts his heart and soul into our team,” Voce said.

The Cougars entered the season written off as a contender but quickly emerged as a credible threat. They entered the district playoffs undefeated in South Sound Conference 3A play and earned their spot in the Thursday title match with two wins against familiar league foes Timberline and Gig Harbor.

The Cougars had clinched their 3A spot at state on their home turf May 4, avenging last year’s brutal 2-1 loss to Gig Harbor in that very same semifinal round. But CK wanted more.

“We sat down and said we’re gonna push, we’re gonna go for it,” Leonard said. “I can’t sit here and preach to them to be brave and then have me go careful today. We had to go for it.”

The match yielded the biggest hits, closest shots and loudest screams you could ask for in high school soccer. CK got its shots off early, including a 25-yard kick from sophomore James Duncan that rolled just wide of the goal in the match’s opening minutes.

The Cougars found themselves in the fight for their lives from there on out as Silas sent shot after shot toward the CK net, one so good it fooled the scoreboard operator for a few minutes thinking the Rams had scored. But LeBeau was fierce, flying across the net and thwarting each shot to keep the score knotted up.

The teams struggled to a stalemate through 90-plus minutes of regular time and two five-minute overtimes.

LeBeau continued to shine in the shootout. Diving to his left, he denied the Rams first attempt. “I say it about a lot of them. It’s a kid that loves a moment,” Leonard said about his goalkeeper. “Back is against the wall, he’ll say, ‘Put it on me. I got it.’”

It would turn out to be all the Cougars needed, starting a perfect 4-4 on the legs of seniors Eduardo Ramos Martinez and Porter Herbig and juniors Keegan Bailey and Nicholas Strickland. Voce took his team home from there.

“It’s honestly a blessing,” LeBeau said. “I’ve got the best teammates in the world. All I had to do was just save that one, and then I got the biggest closer in the league right there on that last one.”

CK senior Eduardo Ramos Martinez competes for a clean header against Silas.

CK senior Eduardo Ramos Martinez competes for a clean header against Silas.

Central Kitsap players celebrate.

Central Kitsap players celebrate.