As the day went on, the moment rapidly developed into the moment of truth with a berth to the state tournament hanging in the balance Saturday at the 2A boys Crossover soccer match.

The stage was never too big for a group of guys who had never played in a district tournament, let alone for a chance to go to the state tournament. But in the end, in its third consecutive shootout, the Ellensburg High School boys soccer team (11-6) ended an eight-year drought, qualifying for the 2A state tournament for the first time since 2011 with a 2-1 victory over Clarkston High School.

Head coach Mark Timko said they aren’t afraid of shootouts, but the biggest move of the day came when the second-year coach opted to switch goalkeepers for the shootout. Timko’s son Connor has been the mainstay in net all season, but saw his season end with a nagging quadriceps injury.

Connor's brother sophomore Riley Timko got the start, finishing with four saves in regulation and both overtime periods before passing the jersey off to Dominick Woolsey, the junior varsity starter who had never played a varsity match. The bold moved proved to be money and Woolsey came up with a key stop on college-bound Theo Baiye’s shot low and away to the far post to help secure the Bulldogs berth in 2A state tournament.

“Dominick is one of our backups and he actually does very well when we work on shootouts in practice,” Timko said. “He stopped (Theo) Baiye, who led the GLC in scoring and is a college-bound player. I thought he really stepped up when we needed him.”

Wooley took his place in net, starred into the face of adversity and rose to the occasion.

“I’d never played varsity until today,” he said with a smile. “I talked with the coach and other players for some ideas on how they like to shoot. But you can tell which way they’re going to go if you watch their actions as they set up.

“It’s not so much luck, as it is increasing your percentage from 50-50 to say 70-30. When I’m standing there, I’m actually trying not to think of anything, trying to clear my mind. When I made that stop against No. 2 (Theo Baiye) it felt really good.”

Senior Zach Gabriel staked the Bulldogs to a 1-0 lead with a goal at the 28-minute mark in the first half.

Riley Timko is not his brother’s keeper, but he did wear his brother’s jersey when he stepped into net in one of the biggest matches of his young career. He did give up a goal when Clarkston midfielder Peyton Kaufman turned and threaded a ball through traffic from 25 yards out to tie the match at 50:07. But he was solid in net for the Bulldogs, who qualified for the 2A state tournament for just the second time since 1986.

“I felt good because we have such a good defense in front of me,” Riley Timko said. “Growing up in a soccer family, I kind of knew what was expected of me and I was ready when it was my turn. We’ve never even qualified for districts, so to make it to state is pretty special.”

Connor Timko will play college soccer at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescot, Ariz., next season, so there is no reason to jeopardize the next four years playing with an injured quadriceps. To his credit, he was on the sideline and helped warm up Wooley prior to the shootout to do his part in the historic run.

“I’d been dealing with the pain since the second game of the season, but after the district championship against Toppenish it swelled up and I knew it was not good,” Connor Timko said. “I was happy for Riley picking up the slack.

“I’ve never seen anything like changing goalkeepers for the shootout. But we won because of Dominick. We’re going to state because of him and today is going to be something he’ll cherish for the rest of his life. I’m happy for him.”

The Bulldogs have survived loser-go-home soccer for the past month, went to a shootout in the last three matches, and they’re not done yet, qualifying for the 2A state tournament for just the second time since 1986.

The 2A state soccer tournament begins on Wednesday with the Bulldogs hosting Mountlake Terrace at 5 p.m.


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