TUMWATER — On the schedule it was listed as a conference match — the regular-season finale for both squads.
But for crosstown rivals Black Hills and Tumwater, the postseason for boys soccer started a bit early.
Win, and prolong the season by wrapping up the 2A Evergreen Conference’s fifth and final berth into the District IV tournament.
Lose, and it’s much simpler — season’s over.
Casey Duff scored twice on a pair of Luke Taylor assists as the Wolves punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 2-1 victory over the Thunderbirds at
Tumwater District Stadium on Tuesday.
“We’ve had a lot of heart-breaking losses this year. A lot of 2-1 games. Some games we gave away,” Duff said. “We talked about playing the entire 80 minutes and we did that tonight. We needed to.”
With time being kept on the field, Tumwater cranked up the pressure in an attempt to even the score, receiving a late corner kick and free kick to go with a few other quality looks.
“Those last two minutes felt like an hour,” Taylor said. “Especially since they had so many possessions in our half.”
Regardless of what the T-Birds threw at them, however, the Wolves were able to turn it away.
Up next for Black Hills (5-10 overall, 4-8 2A EvCo) will be a Saturday showdown with conference champion Capital at Ingersoll Stadium.
The Cougars won both regular-season meetings this year.
“I’m just excited to be heading to the playoffs,” Taylor said. “Both games (against Capital) were pretty ugly for us, but it’s a new season.”
Tumwater’s season ends with a 4-11-1 record overall and a 3-9 mark in conference play.
In a four-minute span midway through the second half, Black Hills saw a Duff free kick from 28 yards out just miss to the left and a Taylor blast hit the left post.
The duo didn’t have to dwell on the missed chances for very long as they teamed up to give the Wolves the eventual game-winner in the 67th minute with Taylor assisting on Duff’s second goal.
“We knew we needed that one,” Duff said. “We didn’t want to see it go to penalty kicks.”
Duff scored in the first half for the Wolves while Tumwater countered with a Michael Saible goal to make it 1-1 at intermission.
Despite much of the activity taking place in front of the Black Hills net in the first half, the team headed into the half tied.
The Wolves struck first with Duff taking a centering pass from Taylor and splitting a pair of Tumwater defenders before finding the back of the net in the 9th minute.
It was one of the few scoring opportunities in the opening 40 minutes for Black Hills.
Tumwater failed to take advantage of four first-half corner kicks, including three consecutive attempts in the 16th minute.
The best chance of the trio occurred on the first attempt as Gavin Trotter’s header off a perfectly placed Jacob Irwin kick just missed the mark, sailing wide right and bouncing off a Black Hills defender to force another corner.
The next two followed suit, failing to find the net.
It was a similar scene earlier in the 6th minute when Irwin’s kick dangerously pinballed around in front of the net before being cleared.
The T-Birds found the equalizer in the 33rd minute with Saible heading in an Irwin pass.