Highland boys soccer denied by Overlake in 2-0 semifinal loss | Sports

RENTON — Several Highland players collapsed to the ground when the whistle blew to end Friday afternoon’s second 1A semifinal at Renton Memorial Stadium.

The No. 4 seed Scotties made it clear they wanted to win a state title and they looked up to the task while creating several quality scoring chances. But they couldn’t avoid another painful disappointment as No. 9 seed Overlake extended its shutout streak to five matches.

The Owls made the most of two breakaways for a pair of second-half goals, including one in the final minute to seal a 2-0 Highland loss.

Coach Greg Wagner said his team played especially well in the first half, when it largely controlled possession and applied plenty of pressure on the attack. Other than a late goal called back for a foul against Scotties goalkeeper Alejandro Silva, Overlake rarely posed an offensive threat in the match’s first 40 minutes.

“I thought we were really patient,” Wagner said in a phone interview. “I thought we did a really good job of not overreacting when we didn’t get a goal early.”

He thought Overlake played with more motivation to start the second half, and it took a goal-line clearance from defender Yacir Perez to keep the game scoreless. Then in the 49th minute the Owls found what ended up being the game-winner when Ethan Lee’s through ball put Randy Xia in alone and he took full advantage.

The Scotties responded well and held the upper hand once again until Xia added a second on a late Highland defensive error in the final minute. Although Overlake remained dangerous on counterattacks, the ball mostly stayed closer to the Owls’ goal.

“In the second half we had several opportunities right in front of goal and we just didn’t get a goal in today, and sometimes that happens,” Wagner said. “I think that our guys played really well.”

Sophomore forward Jose Perez found space inside the box for the Scotties’ two best opportunities, starting in the first half with a close-range shot from a slight angle after a terrific touch to separate himself from a defender. Perez also beat a defender to a Yahir Castro cross right in front of the goal less than six yards away in the 62nd minute, but both times Overlake goalkeeper Evan Spinner denied Highland’s leading scorer his 19th goal of the season.

It won’t be easy to overcome the sting of Friday’s loss, especially for Highland’s three senior starters. Wagner said captains Miguel Romero and Alexis Perez played their hearts out, while Silva, who shined in the Scotties’ 2-1 (OT) quarterfinal win over No. 5 Cascade, turned in another strong goalkeeping performance.

The trio faced quite a bit of adversity over the course of their careers, starting when they were just freshmen on a team Wagner believes had a great chance of making a deep postseason run. But one day before their first regular-season game, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled in-person classes and eventually wiped out all spring sports.

The next season still wasn’t quite normal, as the Scotties played only 13 games, posting a 10-2-1 record in a year without a state tournament. Central defender Alexis Perez earned SCAC West first-team honors as a junior and Romero also played a valuable role helping the Scotties reach the 1A semifinals by stunning Toppenish on its home field.

This season Romero won the SCAC West player of the year award for the league and district champions. The high-scoring defensive midfielder was joined on the all-league first team by both Silva and Alexis Perez.

Highland (20-3) will try to bounce back on Saturday to win its second straight third-place trophy in a match against No. 7 Seton Catholic (17-3-2) scheduled to kick off at 11 a.m. A year ago the Scotties lost 4-2 to University Prep in the semifinals before beating Seattle Academy 3-0.

“I think we find the motivation in not allowing our season to be defined by what we experienced today,” Wagner said. “I think we use the motivation to send our seniors off that have put so much effort in the last four years on a good note.”

Overlake, which won state championships in 2017 and 2018 before placing third in 2019, will face Seattle Academy in Saturday’s 1A final.

First half: No goals.

Second half: 1, Overlake, Randy Xia (Ethan Lee), 49:00; 2, Overlake, Xia, 81:00.

Saves: Evan Spinner (O) 4; Alejandro Silva (H) 4.