A pair of enthusiastic sophomores led Hazen High School to the 3A KingCo tournament boys soccer championship on May 10.
Giovanni Garcia scored a first-half goal and Jordan Stroud tallied an insurance netter in the second half as the Highlanders defeated top-seeded host Mercer Island High School, 2-0, to earn a spot to state.
“Scoring a goal in the final felt amazing. It makes me feel more home with the team. It feels good — it feels like, ‘Wow!’” exclaimed Garcia after the match while grasping a Mexican flag for his home country.
Nearby, Hazen brothers Alex and Vitaliy Polyukh held a Ukrainian flag to represent their homeland. Both defenders played crucial roles in the match by helping keep the Islanders’ score sheet clean. In the second half, Vitaliy cleared a potential Islander equalizing goal off the line.
Garcia, who assisted on Stroud’s goal, said the team possesses solid chemistry and the players push each other to succeed.
“We all trust each other very, very much to the point where we are confident that we can win balls no matter what,” Garcia said.
Stroud said the team is like a family and brings heart and spirit to the pitch each time out.
As for that goal he scored, Stroud noted with a smile, “Best feeling in the world.”
Second-seeded Hazen sports a 9-3-1 league and 12-3-1 overall record this season. Hazen rebounded from a 5-1 loss to Mercer Island during the regular season, which also featured a 0-0 draw between the two squads.
The state tournament kicks off May 16-17.