The cup belongs to Bainbridge.
Bainbridge Island FC’s U12 boys soccer team won the Washington Youth Soccer State Cup by stringing together two back-to-back gut-check victories against Seattle United Samba and Eastside FC to win the state title.
“The players just played their best soccer ever. I’m really proud of them,” said Bainbridge Assistant Coach Simon Hung.
“There was no nervousness; we just wanted them to enjoy the game and enjoy the moment and it worked out perfectly,” he said.
Bainbridge advanced to the final four at state with an earlier win over Gig Harbor.
In the quarterfinals, Bainbridge squared off against Seattle United Samba, a team that had gone through its playoff matches without allowing a single goal. In its earlier contest against Snohomish United, Samba powered to the championship round with a convincing 7-0 win.
Leave it to Bainbridge to break the streak, however.
Bainbridge scored first to knock Seattle back on their heels 10 minutes into the game. Attacking midfielder Grant Wolff netted a clinical left-foot finish in off the goalpost to put Bainbridge ahead, 1-0.
“We kind of knew we had to score early to rattle them, and that’s exactly what we did,” Hung said.
Seattle came back with an equalizer to knot the score at 1-all.
Andrew Mastors Rao, the team’s speedy forward, broke free from his defender on the right and dribbled at speed toward the keeper for a one-on-one shot. He calmly booted a beautiful chip shot over the Seattle goalie for a 2-1 Bainbridge advantage.
Seattle tied again with a super shot from outside the penalty box to even the contest again at 2-2.
There was no quit in the Bainbridge Blues, though.
With the score tied at 2-2, Bainbridge goalie Andy Becker made a couple of big saves that kept the island boys in the game. The defense, led by Daniel Debellis, central defender, stayed solid as they had been in all the games throughout the competition.
Then, in one of the team’s best scores during the playoffs, Jack-Henry Hung received the ball, engaged the Seattle defense at the top of their penalty box, then passed to the right for fellow striker Andrew Master Rao.
“Andrew just smashed it into the net. The whole place just went wild, and all the Bainbridge parents were just cheering,” Hung recalled.
“It was a hard-fought game by both sides,” he said.
Eastside FC advanced to the title game and a date with Bainbridge following a 1-0 win in the Bellevue team’s final four matchup.
“Our boys were pretty relaxed and confident, and just ready for a good game of soccer.”
Bainbridge’s big scoring threat didn’t waste much time in the title contest.
“Andrew Master Rao struck again; he got a diagonal ball from the midfield, then he hit a half volley which went over the keeper,” Hung said.
Bainbridge led 1-0 at halftime. The Blues knew it wasn’t enough, however.
“We were pretty happy with our play but we felt that we could do even better and so in the second half, Eastside FC came at us quite strong.
“We had a little lapse in concentration and that led to a scrappy goal by Eastside that tied it up 1-1,” Hung recalled.
At their restart at center circle, Bainbridge team captain Matthew Hodges held up his hand in a “five”: the signal to get a score in the next five minutes of play.
“I don’t know if it was exactly five minutes, but it seemed like it,” Hung said.
The crucial sequence began as left midfielder Andrew von Bereghy crossed in from the left side after breaking free from a few tackles and crossed to Matthew Hodges for the shot. Matthew got a toe on the ball but the attempt missed the mark.
It was nothing much to worry about, as Andrew Master Rao was ready to send in the game-winner.
“Andrew was at the end of it, following up, and smashed it into the net and finished it,” Hung said.
The team erupted as time expired, and with no small bit of relief.
“They were just screaming with joy just really couldn’t believe that they had just become state champs,” he said.
Hung praised Head Coach Tim Self for setting the tone early.
“Coach Tim really put the attitude into the team that they need to be relaxed and positive and not be nervous about the game.
“Everything was positive, everything,” he said.
The team’s success marks a milestone for the island’s football club in its long-term development of Bainbridge players.
“This is a huge achievement for the club and something we’ve been working on since I arrived in 2009,” said Ian McCallum, director of coaching for Bainbridge Island FC.
“This group of players started in our development academy program before joining Select in 2011. It’s taken a number of year to get to this point and we’ll continue to support the coaches and players to reach even greater heights,” he added.
“We’re looking at long-term development and this is just one of the peaks on the journey,” McCallum said. “We’re expecting many more.”