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Cougs given the boot
"VANCOUVER - The magic that helped carry the Central Kitsap High School boys soccer team through its most successful season ever?It went poof, just when the Cougars needed it most.The Cougs dropped a 2-0 decision to Evergreen Saturday in a quarterfinal game of the state Class 4A playoffs at McKenzie Stadium.And afterward, they didn't have anything - even the Plainsmen - to blame.I think you saw Central Kitsap beat Central Kitsap today, said CK coach Jason Visintainer. It really hurts, not just because of the loss, but because we really didn't play well at all.I still think we could've beaten them, added junior midfielder Nick Van Buecken. We just didn't play our game.First-half goals by Nick Westendorf and Mike Bruner accounted for the scoring in the game, played on the Plainsmen's home surface. But nothing Evergreen did had as much to do with what the Cougars didn't do.The loss was only the second for the Cougars (16-2-1) in a season that saw them claim their first-ever Olympic League championship, qualify for their first-ever jaunt into the state 4A bracket and notch their first state-tournament victory.Eventually, all that newness got to be just too much. The Cougars - who motored to Vancouver the night before the match and slept in hotel rooms - looked out of sorts from the opening whistle. Indeed, they were intimated well before then.We were sitting in the stands watching Decatur (a 3-0 victory over Mountain View in Saturday's early game) and thinking, 'Wow, they're pretty good,' Van Buecken said. I think the whole situation just sort of mentally psyched us out.The Plainsmen - an unapologetically physical bunch who made good use of their team speed and familiarity with the rapid artificial surface - took charge immediately and kept the Cougs on their heels the entire first half. Only a magnificent save by senior Casey Sullivan, who rushed across the goalmouth and dove to haul in Mike Brown's hard shot, kept them from taking an early lead.But an Evergreen goal seemed inevitable, and it came in the 20th minute when Bruner's short cross found Nick Westendorf open on the left side of the box for a header that beat Sullivan to the far post.Bruner added an opportunistic goal 10 minutes later after Sullivan came far off his line to try and clear the ball. His clearance, however, went right to Bruner, who punched it back goalward past Sullivan, who was scrambling desperately to get back to the goal mouth but managed only to reach up and get a hand on the shot.CK heated things up a little in the second half. Keith Cain's header off Van Buecken's free kick was the most convincing chance of the half, forcing Evergreen goalie Matt Blosser to tip the ball smartly over the crossbar. The Flatlanders' Danny Konzek hit the post with a shot in the final minutes, but it stayed in play and was cleared out harmlessly.Evergreen coach Keenan Burris, whose team has been as far as the state quarterfinals three times in the last five years, sympathized with the Cougs.When you get here for the first time, it's tough, Burris said with a been-there, done-that shrug. We've had to play a little ugly this year, but we knew what we were playing for.We're pretty tough defensively, Burris added. We've only given up 10 goals, and this is our 11th shutout.Ironically, the Cougars had yielded just nine goals going into Saturday's matchup, and a shutout would've been their 11th, as well.As Van Buecken said, though, It just wasn't in the cards for us.We picked it up a lot in the second half, Visintainer said, but that still wasn't our 'A' game out there. We feel bad, because we thought Evergreen was a team we had a good chance to knock off.They won the balls in the air, and when we did get possession, we gave it away, Visintainer added. There were not a lot of things that went our way. "