At the beginning of the year, the Bothell High soccer players and coaches were just hoping to reach the 4A Kingco tournament. It was something the team hadn’t done since 2002, and seemed like a reasonable goal with the team starting nearly a half dozen sophomores.
So the season was already successful when Bothell grabbed the sixth and final playoff spot after a 5-5 regular season.
But after upsetting three straight teams in the tournament, this season has gone from successful to a memory the Cougars will hold for the rest of their lives. Bothell defeated Kingco Lakes Division champ Eastlake, 1-0, on Thursday to cap off a 4A Kingco tournament run that has culminated in the Cougars reaching the state tournament.
“We stormed the field,” head coach Alex Zahajko said “It was pandemonium. It was special.”
Bothell played Todd Beamer on Tuesday at Sunset Cehv Stadium in Sumner, after the Reporter’s deadline. Just the fact that Bothell even got there defied all odds, as Bothell had the toughest road of any Kingco team to reach state.
Bothell beat Redmond, considered by Zahajko to be the league’s best team, in the opening round, 2-0. Bothell then beat Lake Washington, 3-0, the same score the Cougars lost to the Kangs by in the final game of the regular season, before shutting out Eastlake.
“It all starts with defense,” Zahajko said. “Three shutouts in Kingco is extra special, and I’ve preached to them all year that defense is the key to the championship.”
Zahajko said a big key has been moving senior co-captain Kyle Wymer to the sweeper position in front of goalie Shane Lervold. Zahajko said Wymer’s quickness and speed has allowed Bothell’s defense to become one of the best in the league, as the Cougars shut out four of their final five opponents going into state.
That included the Eastlake game, when Michael Rogers’ goal in the 61st minute held up, allowing the Cougars to go to state.
“It’s surreal,” Zahajko said. “Because a week and a half ago, we were dead in the water. All of a sudden, nine days later, here we are.”