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November 20, 2012 at 4:00 AM

“The Full 80”: This is the final installment of the girls high-school soccer season, recapping Skyline’s run to a fourth Class 4A title in five years and national rankings

In this edition of “The Full 80,” we’ll look at how Skyline has emerged as the dominant team from a crowd of talent in the Issaquah-Sammamish area with its fourth Class 4A state title in five years.

The Spartans, who are one win from joining a state-best group of three teams with five state titles, got through KingCo 4A rival Issaquah 1-0 in the 4A championship match on Saturday.

The Skyline High School girls soccer team now sits one state title away from matching state history.

The Spartans downed KingCo 4A rival Issaquah 1-0 on Saturday to secure the school’s fourth Class 4A state title. That leaves them one title away from tying the “big-school” mark of five set by Bellarmine Prep, Shorecrest and Kennedy.

Does Skyline, which graduates just three seniors, have the tools to threaten the title mark again in 2013? Neither Skyline or Issaquah won the KingCo 4A tournament title in 2012, and that honor went to Redmond, but the league tests its members regularly and prepares them for the rigors of a state-title run.

“The work both of us put in all year, we weren’t even first in our league and we managed to get first in state,” said Skyline coach Don Braman, who is in his ninth year. “To got back-to-back, it’s just amazing. I just really enjoy working with these kids.”

The Spartans (17-1-3) won back-to-back 4A crowns in carbon-copy fashion, get ahead and work hard on defense to preserve the win. Sophomore forward Izzy Marshall was opportunistic after taking a feed from fellow sophomore Amanda Johnston in the 15th minute as Skyline wrapped up its fourth 4A title in five years.

In 2011, Lianna Simms tallied in the 22nd minute on a free-kick goal as Skyline hung on to down Bellarmine Prep 1-0.

Issaquah, saddled with a pair of injuries for the Final Four, fought gallantly in the 4A final, led by injured midfielder Audrey Thomas. But the Spartans’ recipe for success left the Eagles frustrated in the end and with an answer.

“We threw people up and switched people around,” Issaquah coach Tom Bunnell said. “They got an early goal. This game was going to come down to who got an early goal, and then you’ll have to fight and scrap.

“Just the games with Skyline are going to be like this. They just kept pinning us. We were getting our chances, but they just didn’t go. In a big game like this, they gotta go.”

Skyline beat Issaquah 2-1 in the 2009 4A championship match and there is a natural intensity to the rivalry between KingCo 4A schools situated 6.5 miles apart. Both coaches were good friends as far back as their days at Mercer Island High Schools.

“I really look at this rivalry as a Derby game,” said Braman. “It’s kind of fun. It’s our teammates, and our friends at Issaquah, but also the team we want to most impress. You’ve got to remember that before Skyline existed that all these students were at Issaquah, and then they split off and made Skyline.

“I taught at Issaquah before moving up to Skyline. The rivalry’s there. And then for [Issaquah coach] Tom [Bunnell] to be the one who poses such a great challenge every time we play them, it’s really fun for me.”

While the two teams pushed, shoved, tugged to near bloodshed, the two coaches – friends since attending Mercer Island High School – exchanged friendly fire on the sidelines.

“I coach about eight of those girls in club with Eastside FC, and I train their goalkeeper, Emily Baril,” Bunnell said. “We all give each other a hard time. I was giving them a hard time on the field. When [Skyline midfielder] Kelli Sullivan, one of my club players, was man-marking Audi [Audrey Thomas] at the beginning of the second half.

“I said, ‘Hey, Kel, she’s right there.’ She gave me this funny look. It’s fun. It isn’t bitter, because we were both going for our fourth title.”

Said Braman of the heated rivalry: “Tom and I had a few little things back and forth. There were some really funny moments. This time was low-maintenance. The one last time was so heated.”

There is a ton of girls soccer talent within the Issaquah School District.

“It’s an amazing rivalry between Skyline and Issaquah,” Bunnell said of the Patriots, who took third place in 3A. “It’s incredible. They’ve had an amazing run. Look at what we’ve done, six finals in nine years.

“Then throw Liberty in the mix. That’s our school district. That’s crazy.”

If not for a 1-0 state semifinal loss to Tahoma as the No. 1 team in the country in 2010, and the record books could be reading five consecutive championships for Skyline. The Spartans settled for third place in 2010, salvaging that with a 2-1 win over Skyview of Vancouver.

“It’s funny, because that was a really devastating loss at the time, and we’ve really worked hard to move on,” Braman said. “I worked hard to really consider what we do as a program given that loss. I don’t look at it like, ‘Oh, if only.’

“We’ve worked a lot harder as a coaching staff. With the kids, we try to keep that all off of them. For them, it’s go out and have fun and work hard.”

Braman learned a lot from that disappointment in 2010.

“We’re good and we work hard to be good, and we make sure we keep our standards high and demand a lot out of ourselves,” he said. “To us, we had to look at the lessons of being a very strong team that didn’t know how to adapt and change.

“And, since then, we’ve become a team that can handle any different situation. We can take away what your team is good at. We do that in part because Kelli Sullivan is so good for us, but also because our players are so smart.”

Braman credits the youth feeder programs for his program’s strong backbone.

“The pieces I’m given are so talented,” he said. “We have such amazing talent that comes into Skyline. The club programs are so strong in our area.

“These kids are intelligent and they are willing to adapt.”

Around the Area

The Tahoma Bears, ranked No. 1 in 4A, remained in the No. 7 spot in the Top 25 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) national poll for Nov. 13, 2012. Here’s the Nov. 13 poll for Week 11 below:

2012 state champions in fall soccer

Class 4A girls (Final Four, Sparks Stadium, Nov. 16-17)

Skyline (17-1-3)

Class 3A girls (Final Four, Sparks Stadium, Nov. 16-17)

Columbia River (19-0-2)

Class 2A girls (Final Four, Shoreline Stadium, Nov. 16-17)

Sumner (21-0-0)

Class 1A girls (Final Four, Shoreline Stadium, Nov. 16-17)

University Prep (17-2-1)

Class 1B/2B girls (Final Four, Sunset Chev Stadium, Sumner, Nov. 16-17)

Bear Creek (12-4-0)

Class 1B/2B boys (Final Four, Sunset Chev Stadium, Sumner, Nov. 16-17)

Northwest Christian (Colbert)

Teams to watch in 2013

Class 4A: Skyline, Issaquah.

Class 3A: Mount Spokane, Columbia River.

Class 2A: Archbishop Murphy, Sehome, Squalicum.

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