Sports

Spartans turn it up to 11 in first state playoff match

Michael Crowley scores on a header past Glacier Peak goalkeeper Lucas MacMillian for the Spartans’ first score. - Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review
Michael Crowley scores on a header past Glacier Peak goalkeeper Lucas MacMillian for the Spartans’ first score.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Bainbridge Island Review

Spartans Head Coach George Vukic was looking for the exit.

Walking through the underbelly of Snohomish’s Veterans Memorial Stadium with two newspaper reporters in tow, he eyed a nearby door and stepped toward it.

It opened and out came a player in a Glacier Peak uniform.

Vukic spun around. The team bus was waiting.

He spotted another door that was nearly blocked off by two folding tables, dissected the space between the two and flung the door open. There were stairs, and up he went.

Halfway up he laughed, “This is like ‘Spinal Tap,’” as the two reporters huffed behind.

“You turned it up to 11,” quipped one of the sportswriters, giving a nod to both the day’s soccer game and the cult film’s gung-ho rockers.

Vukic took a few more steps up the stairs and then turned around, and threw both arms in the air.

“Rock and roll!” he shouted.

The Spartans played like rock stars, no doubt, in a convincing 4-1 win over the Glacier Peak Saturday in the first round of the state 3A soccer playoffs.

But it was more than musical. It was magic.

“We were brilliant; we played a brilliant game,” Vukic said as the Spartans gathered on the sideline after end-of-game handshakes.

“We played a fantastic game. We controlled the ball, we were creative.

We had a couple errors in the back, but we were solid enough back there.

We were really firing on a lot of cylinders,” he said. “We really controlled 90 percent of today.”

And that’s saying something. The team has been beset with injuries of late, and three players subbed in the playoff game.

Two of those out are team captains Alex Coplan and Sebastian Scales. The Spartans have been without the pair since the 1-0 squeaker over Kennedy in their last game.

Bainbridge put the heat on the Grizzlies early with two goals just minutes apart.

The first came off a header by the Spartans’ Michael Crowley at the 36:54 mark, off a corner kick by Bainbridge that found right in front of the net with just the goalkeeper to beat.

Will Economy took a pass from to put BHS up 2-0.

“You never know what’s going to happen when he has the ball. He’s a magician, plain and simple,” Vukic said.

Vukic recalled the star turn he took earlier this season, against Ingraham in the Metro League semis.

“We were down 1-0. I brought Will to the middle from an outside position.

“And in 10 minutes, it was 3-1 for us,” Vukic recalled.

Economy scored two and had an assist within that span.

“He’s extremely creative. He can play the flank, he can play the middle, he can play center-mid, he can do any of them,” the Spartan coach said.

There was a bit of drama from the other side in the contest.

Glacier Peak scored just before the half, with a penalty kick by Connor Seed at 1:39.

The Spartans pulled away after Economy picked up the bounce of a missed penalty shot by Crowley and chipped it back in the net to make it 3-1 at the 23:35 mark. Economy nailed the coffin-closer with an assist by Tanner Salmon at the 9:00 mark.

“Today, he was fantastic to watch,” the coach said of Economy.

“Everything kind of suited his game tonight. The field size, the energy in the group, everything.”

The Bainbridge win, however, was much more than a performance by a one-man band.

It was an ensemble piece put together by veterans on this state stage.

Vukic said the team’s recent runs through the state tournament — they were state 3A champs last year, of course, and the year before, were the runners up to the champs — gave them an insightful advantage.

“It’s knowledge. It’s experience. We’re not in awe. We’ve been there. That helps,” Vukic said.

“In fact, they are almost sometimes too relaxed,” he added, recalling the near stage dive against Kennedy.

“But here, no. We knew the magnitude of this game. Glacier Peak and Shannon [Murray, head coach] and these boys are also so tough.”

Bainbridge fans gave the team a standing ovation as they cleared the field.

For Economy, he left with another hat trick. Flashy, but not as gaudy as the five goals he scored against O’Dea in the first Metro playoff game.

Economy said scoring in space was key in the win.

“Toward the end especially, they had to commit bodies forward, so that left a lot of gaps at the back,” he said. “And early on, I think they were a little nervous, so there were also gaps there. So we got to take advantage both early and late.

Economy agreed that the team’s postseason experience has been a boost.

“Just seeing that we could play with anyone really helps us out for this year. I went into the playoffs not knowing what to expect, because I’d never been on that stage before,” he recalled.

“But this year, we kind of go in there knowing what to expect; knowing that it’s going to be a battle every time, but one where we can eventually come out on top,” he said.

The Spartans, though, have been unstoppable after they’ve gained the early lead.

In Saturday’s win, that started with Crowley’s header past Grizzly goalkeeper Lucas MacMillan.

It was good gank, Crowley said, for a team that’s been struggling on converting corner kicks this year.

The matchup he found himself in helped, too.

“I found myself having a smaller defender on me. It was an easy goal. It was a nice start to the game,” Crowley said.

 

 

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