Impossible dreams? Not anymore.
After the most shockingly successful week in Rogers boys soccer history, the Pirates are one win from the state playoffs.
“It’s kind of unreal right now,” said goalkeeper Vincent St. John, one of many heroes in the Pirates’ stunning 2-0 win over Mt. Spokane in the 3A district title match Friday night at Spokane Falls Community College.
“Nobody thought we could do this – I can’t believe how great this feels,” St. John said as the Pirates celebrated with family, friends and classmates.
The skeptics could be excused: Rogers finished ninth in the Greater Spokane League with a 1-8 record that matches last year’s mark. Before that? Three straight years of goose eggs.
However, this year’s team made a habit of taking better teams down to the wire, including one-goal losses to Ferris and Mead.
“This is my best team, and they’ve gotten better as the season went on,” coach Valentin Dimitrov.
That much was clear on Tuesday, when the Pirates beat North Central 3-0 to set up Friday’s title game. Both teams were guaranteed to advance to next week’s regionals, “so we didn’t feel the pressure as much,” said defender Antonio Papazis.
In that sense, nothing has changed. Next up is the regional title match in the Tri-Cities against Kennewick or Kamiakin. Win that and the Pirates go to state for the first time in school history. Even with a loss, they would get one more chance to qualify in Spokane on May 14.
None of that mattered Friday night. “I’m just speechless, happy and very proud,” Dimitrov said.
The Pirates (7-9) played defensively from the start against the perennial district champion Wildcats, who won their earlier meeting 2-0 while outshooting Rogers 15-1.
“Coach told is to use our counters and play strong D, and that’s what we did,” said St. John, who had 13 saves.
Mt. Spokane (5-9) had several good chances in the first half, but Rogers had the best one on a counterattack by Moses Ndayishimiye that was barely saved by Wildcats keeper Camden Clegg.
Ten minutes after halftime, Rogers broke a scoreless tie when midfielder Javier Ayala-Rosales swooped in unmarked on a free kick and tapped the ball into the net.
Seconds later, St. John made an improbable save after a Mt. Spokane breakaway. Two minutes after that, Papazis took a 45-yard free kick that found the net when Clegg came off his line.
“Sometimes you get a little bit lucky,” Papazis said with a smile.
With a two-goal lead, the Pirates pulled their forwards and went into siege mode. It paid off, as Mt. Spokane struggled to find open shots.
Mt. Spokane faces a loser-out game Tuesday, also in the Tri-Cities.
SFCC will host another double-header on Saturday – four if you count the Spokane Shadow women’s and men’s matches in the evening. First up is the regional title match at 11 a.m. Also a stake between Central Valley and Ferris is the top seed and homefield advantage in next week’s regionals; the loser must travel to Richland or Pasco, who play Saturday for the Mid-Columbia Conference championship. At 1:30 p.m., Mead faces Lewis and Clark in a loser-out match. The winner faces another loser-out contest Tuesday in the Tri-Cities.
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