Johan Zuluaga gets some love from his teammates after scoring the game tying goal. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Johan Zuluaga gets some love from his teammates after scoring the game tying goal. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kent-Meridian soccer wins 3A NPSL with win over Auburn Riverside

The Royals have now won four straight to close out regular season.

After a historic season a year ago, the Kent-Meridian Royals boys soccer team are league champions of the 3A NPSL this year after a 3-1 victory over Auburn Riverside on April 30.

Entering the fixture, Kent-Meridian was one point behind Todd Beamer High School, which had beaten Kentlake 4-1 earlier in the day. It came down to the Royals and the Auburn Trojans to see who would be league champs. The universe determined it was Kent-Meridian’s night, and boy was it.

The first half was relatively bland for Kent-Meridian and Auburn Riverside. The Royals never really breached the backline and the Ravens had one spectacular chance, but the shot went right at the Royal goalkeeper.

Coming out of the halftime break, a team that was already eliminated from the postseason played like they had so much to gain. The Ravens took a 1-0 lead, on a breakdown defensively from Kent-Meridian. That goal woke up the Royals and just two minutes later, coach Brian Gabert’s guys got going.

It took just a pair of corners to get the momentum the way of Kent-Meridian. On a failed clearance, Johan Zuluaga punched it into the back of the net, two minutes after they conceded the opening goal of the game.

“I know these guys never quit. I know they never give up,” said Head Coach Brian Gabert.

“It brought a lot of energy. You even saw that everybody got the spirit to push until the very end,” Andres Zuluaga said.

At this point in time, Todd Beamer was set up to win the league if the Royals didn’t make anything happen: “I knew we were getting really good opportunities... Once we started getting touches, now it’s just a matter of bearing down,” Gabert said.

But all it took was Andres Zuluaga to show his class and skill to take hold of this game. Zuluaga plays with such grace and just glides with the ball at his feet. For the first time in their high school careers, the Zuluaga brothers scored in the same game: “It was great, I loved it. I’ll never forget that,” Andres said.

Andres’ goal came in the 77th minute and sent a wave of pure elation into the hearts of Kent-Meridian fans in the building.

That wasn’t all for the Royals. Delano Valerio in the 78th minute was played in by a beauty of a ball that beat the Raven defense. He dribbled all alone on goal and sent the Royals into first place emphatically.

Kent-Meridian takes on Spanaway Lake in a winner-to-state game at French Field on May 4, with kickoff TBD. “We’re just going to push from the very beginning... We’re playing by far our best soccer of the season,” Andres said.


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Luis Serna a Royal senior points to try and sway a referee’s decision. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Luis Serna a Royal senior points to try and sway a referee’s decision. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Andres high tens’ his brother while receiving a hug from fellow captain Saul Rodriguez. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Andres high tens’ his brother while receiving a hug from fellow captain Saul Rodriguez. Ben Ray / The Reporter

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