TUMWATER – As excited as the Tumwater Thunderbirds were about their Class 2A state boys soccer quarterfinal victory Saturday afternoon over Franklin Pierce to earn the program’s first berth into next weekend’s state semifinals, they know still there’s more left to be accomplished.
The next goal is obvious, junior striker Bradley Saner said.
“A state championship,” said Saner, who opened the scoring in the 44th minute in the T-Birds’ 3-1 victory over the Cardinals at Tumwater District Stadium.
“It’s crazy winning this game and going on the final four and no (previous Tumwater soccer team) has ever done this before.”
The victory, which was fueled by two goals from Connor Sigmon, guarantees the T-Birds (19-0-2) a top-four state trophy at Sumner’s Sunset Chev Stadium, where next weekend’s state semifinals and championship game will take place. They’ll face either Fife or Squalicum at 6 p.m. Friday.
In six prior state appearances, Tumwater has never placed nor gotten past the quarterfinals.
They’ve already earned both by figuring out Franklin Pierce’s stingy defense in the second half. The Cardinals did not allow a shot on goal in the first half, which ended scoreless.
After the break, the T-Birds opened up their attack and soon came the goals. Saner opened the scoring with his fifth goal of the season. Sigmon then scored in the 52nd minute off a Kevin Weyand assist.
Two shots, two goals.
“That definitely boosted us,” Saner said.
“We started to find our rhythm with our passing,” Tumwater coach Bryan Winkler said. “That was one of our most challenging matches of the year.”
But just like in Wednesday’s 3-2 first-round win over Port Angeles, when Tumwater built a 3-0 lead, only to have the Roughriders score twice to make it interesting, Franklin Pierce’s Richard Laducer cut the T-Birds’ lead in half in the 59th minute.
The Weyand-to-Sigmon connection happened again for an insurance goal in the 60th minute as Weyand made a long pass to Sigmon, who dribbled and fired a shot through the left side. Sigmon has 10 goals in five playoff games.
Despite the loss, the Cardinals (13-5-2) surpassed longtime coach Steve Andersen’s expectations, advancing to the state quarterfinals for the third time in four seasons.
In the previous two games, Franklin Pierce won playoff games with late goals, including one in the final 10 seconds in a 3-2 win over Sehome in the first round.
“When we got them at 2-1, I thought maybe something would open up there,” said Andersen, the Cardinals’ coach since 1983. “No magic comeback for us this time. It’s always tough when it’s over.”
Senior goalkeeper Devon Dieckman, who was named co-defensive MVP of the 2A Evergreen Conference along with senior midfielder Nathaniel Gundersen, made six saves for Tumwater.firstname.lastname@example.org 360-754-5473 www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick