South Kitsap out-maneuvered by Kent-Meridian in district opener

AUBURN — Another magical run just wasn’t in the cards for the Wolves’ boys soccer team this season.

They were hoping to take the same path to the 4A state tournament as a year ago when they knocked 10th-ranked NPSL team Decatur and the No. 2 NSPL team, Federal Way, on their way to hosting a first-round state game.

But Kent-Meridian was nearly perfect defensively and was able to take advantage of one crack in the South Kitsap backline to pick up a narrow 1-0 victory in the first round of the 4A West Central/Southwest boys soccer bi-district tournament. The loss ends the Wolves’ season.

“They played well, they deserved that second-half goal,” head coach Cory Vartanian said. “We had one defensive breakdown and they capitalized on it.”

South Kitsap wasn’t without its own opportunities. Logan Anchick was able to connect with Blake Mason, who was positioned on the back side of the play in the 19th minute, but the keeper rushed out to cut the angle and the ball was ultimately cleared away for a corner.

The Wolves nearly got the opening goal late in the first half when an Eduardo De La Cruz free kick from about 30 yards skipped into the box and was deflected up into the crossbar. None of the ensuing South Kitsap players could corral the ball and it was cleared away.

A 62nd-minute Dylan Ruth free kick looked like it could be the breakthrough as Anchick got a head on it and sent it toward the goal for De La Cruz, who headed the ball just over the net.

The Wolves remained ready to counter throughout the second half on any Kent-Meridian mistake, but the NPSL squad was sure and true with every pass and was able to keep possession, limiting South Kitsap’s time on the attack and locking down the victory.

The Royals went ahead in the 50th minute, slipping a pass down the left side for Santiago Murillo-Londono, who took the ball at full speed and was able to open up space for a strong shot placed well inside the far post.

“It was that kind of game where they just took advantage of the opportunity that presented itself,” Vartanian said.