Clearly Tom Bunnell like challenges.
The Issaquah High School girls soccer coach has put the biggest challenge he possibly could in front of his three-time state champion program.
The Eagles, ranked No. 4 in Class 4A in Washington state, plays the match of a lifetime on Saturday at 4 p.m. when they travel to face the nation’s top-ranked team, Mario Carrillo of Santa Rosa, Calif.
Maria Carrillo (5-0-0) owns a 54-match unbeaten streak heading into Wednesday’s home match against Santa Rosa and Friday’s match at Cardinal Newman before Saturday’s showdown with Issaquah (3-1-0). The Eagles are No. 25 in the latest Fab 50 national rankings and have the week off until Saturday.
“We are excited about playing a team of this caliber,” said Bunnell, whose team took a tough 3-2 overtime penalty-kick shootout loss to Central Valley of Spokane in the 4A state final last season. “After the disappointing loss in the state final last year, I looked at my AD [athletic director Luke Ande] and said call Maria Carrillo. He did and they gladly accepted.”
The Pumas finished atop the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) national rankings in 2013 and 2012. So far in 2014, Maria Carrillo has outscored its first five opponents 32-1. Maria Carrillo is tied at No. 1 in the latest NSCAA rankings with Northern Highlands of Allendale, N.J.
“For the last five years we have had a great home and away cross state battle with nationally ranked Tualatin [of Oregon],” said Bunnell, whose program won state titles in 3A in 2004, 2006 and 2007. “That has been a great experience for the girls, so I thought let’s take it to another level and see how we fair against the No. 1 team in the country the last three years.
“Honestly we wouldn’t make this trip if we didn’t believe we had a chance to win. Yes they are a great team, but I like our chances.”