Boys’ soccer second in state finish

Beavers fall just short of a state title after historic playoff campaign


Emma Steinburg

Senior midfielder Gray Levasseur leaps well above his Lakeside opponent to make a header.

James Liska, Sports Editor

After winning three straight state playoff games with a remarkable aggregate score of 11-0, the Ballard boys’ varsity soccer team took on a strong Lakeside team in the 3A state semifinals.
The Beavers controlled the pace of the game early on. The aptly named defensive trio “the great wall of Ballard’’ of Senior Lucas Sussman, Junior Cole Frech and Junior Jack Rollins was impenetrable as ever early on, and Senior Midfielders Elijah Post and Karel VanDoorn each had a pair of dangerous shots on goal.
In the 24th minute, Rollins was injured on a hard tackle and had to leave the game, and the great wall was left without its pivotal right back. Senior Captain Gray Levasseur dropped back from the midfield to the vacant right back spot and skillfully held down that side of the defense for the rest of the game.
After a few more dangerous chances for both sides, the first half concluded at 0-0.
The Beavers kicked off the second half and continued to control the pace of the game.
Each side had a few set pieces and scoring chances of their own, but both defenses and goalkeepers, senior Natan Admassu of Ballard and junior Thiago Ausland of Lakeside, managed to shut down all attacks and send the game into overtime still tied at 0-0.
Ballard applied all the pressure in overtime. In the first five minute period, Ballard’s defense shut down a Lakeside advance and quickly turned the play around into a counterattack with a ball upfield to Senior Finley Mcgehee on a fast break. Mcgehee beat a defender, and sent a precise ball upfield to Post, who narrowly missed the goal on an acrobatic strike.

Ballard soccer superfan Ronan Mooney, or “Prius”, leads the crowd in chants during the semifinal match. (Emma Steinburg)

The second period of overtime was a similar story. Ballard dominated in terms of offensive possession, but Lakeside narrowly escaped overtime as the period ended with a dangerous flurry of strikes on goal off the rebound of the previous save by Ausland. The match of two clean sheets and a thrilling contest of defense was then sent into a penalty shootout.
After three shots apiece, the Beavers found themselves down 2-1 in the shootout. As the opportunity to win the shootout was slipping away, Admassu made an incredible diving save to his left on the second to last Lakeside shot, giving Sussman an opportunity to equalize.

Senior Karel Van-Doorn challenging a Lakeside midfielder. (Emma Steinburg)

Sussman drilled his shot to the right side of the goal, and it found the back of the net to tie the score at 2 heading into the last shot for each team. In Lakeside’s fifth and final shot to take the lead, Admassu came up clutch with a third save, giving Ballard a chance to win the shootout in the last round.
Then it all came down to Post. The crowd fell silent in anticipation, then erupted into a roar as Post drilled the ball past the hands of Ausland into the back of the net to send Ballard soccer to its first ever state championship.
The next day, the Beavers would face a dominant #1 seeded Lincoln High School team who went 21-0-1 in the regular season and outscored opponents 21-3 in their playoff run.
The Beavers played a hard and complete match, but struggled to equalize on the impenetrable defense of Lincoln after a 26th minute goal by senior midfielder Wren Wagner.
The Beavers were able to put a few solid strikes on goal throughout the game and even put one in the goal off the foot of Post, but the goal was called back on a foul.
Ultimately, the final whistle blew, and the Lincoln players were crowned state champions. After the game, the Beavers remained gracious in defeat and came over to the stands, lined up and applauded the crowd to express appreciation for the support of the Beaver brigade.
Despite a disappointing championship, the boy’s soccer team’s playoff run as a whole was anything but disappointing. The team came alive and played on a completely new level during their historic playoff campaign, and only fell to a very strong team in a close game.
This was the highest ever finish in Ballard boys’ soccer history.