Lakewood soccer wins shootout over Sultan

SULTAN — By all rights, Lakewood soccer was supposed to enjoy a cakewalk into the postseason this year.

With a large number of their district-championship team members back from last season, the Cougars were big favorites.

What they didn’t count on was the role that luck could play in their season.

Lakewood hasn’t been scoring as many goals as last year and the boys have struggled with injuries, including at least one season-ending loss. And with their last home game of the regular season behind them, Lakewood has had about a half-dozen games decided by shootouts including their 2-1 win at Sultan April 30.

Lakewood coach Vaughn Vandelac has been scratching his head on the sideline this season.

“Other teams got better, and us and Sultan is always a battle,” he said. “I’m racking my brain. We’ve been unlucky too, we’ve had goals called back.”

Just when luck seemed to be on Lakewood’s side — the Cougars broke a 0-0 stalemate in the 44th minute when Joseph Hawkins scored from the right side of the goal on a pass from Craig Hooks across the front of the net — it turned its back on them. Sultan was awarded a penalty kick to tie the game up in the 73rd minute, forcing overtime and yet another shootout.

Trading penalty kicks, both teams converted their first three attempts when a Sultan kicker bounced one off the post, giving Lakewood an opening. But the Sultan keeper kept it even, blocking Lakewood’s fourth attempt.

That block opened the door to some heroics from Lakewood keeper James Hoback, who blocked Sultan’s fifth attempt. On Lakewood’s fifth PK, Evander Ochoa secured the 4-3 shootout win.

Lakewood needed a win over Cedarcrest or a Sultan loss May 2 to secure the No. 3 seed over Sultan, with whom they were tied in the standings. Neither happened, setting up a tiebreaker for the seed May 4 after the Globe and Times went to press. The loser will go to a play-in game against the Northwest Conference No. 5 May 7.

Nonetheless, luck is fickle and Lakewood is surely hoping it will change soon.

“That’s Lakewood soccer. We pull it out in the postseason,” Vandelac said.

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