Highline Men's Soccer Earns Third Star with 1-0 win over Whatcom in NWAC Final
By Eric Trent for the NWAC
TUKWILA – Facing the top offense in the NWAC, Highline scored in the second half and stymied the No. 11 nationally ranked Whatcom Orcas to earn its third title in school history.
In the 58th minute, Highline’s freshman forward Dane Evanger came flying into the penalty box, picked up a rebound and booted a laser from 14 yards out that flew through a pack of Whatcom defenders and into the back of the net to give the Thunderbirds their game-winning shot.
Evanger was named the Thunderbirds' Most Inspirational Player.
Highline previously won in 2004, when current coach Steve Mohn was a player, then again in 2014 while Mohn was the coach.
“It’s incredible,” Mohn said. “It’s cool to be on both sides of it. I know right where these guys have been and want to go.”
Down 1-0, Whatcom went on a ferocious offensive attack in the final 10 minutes, unleashing a frenzy of shots in hopes connecting on one, each being blocked by Thunderbird keeper Akili Kasim.
“Hats off to [Whatcom,’]” Mohn said. “We had to pull a little bit extra out of our hat in that last 10 minutes to keep them from scoring.”
Kasim, a freshman, was named tournament MVP after securing 4 saves.
“What helps it is the women won as well,” Kasim said. “That makes it three times better. My emotions are indescribable right now. I felt it was really deserving that we both won. The whole year we’ve been fighting. I can say that for the women’s team as well.”
Kasim’s saves, especially in the final 10 minutes, were instrumental in Highline’s victory.
One save was a rocket that Kasim threw his arm up vertically and deflected the ball, which ricocheted out of the goal box.
The Highline women also won, 1-0, making this year’s men’s and women’s team the third school and fourth time in NWAC history to have both the men’s and women’s soccer teams win the same year.
Peninsula was the last to do it in 2012 and 2013, while Columbia Basin men and women were the first in 1999.
Highline men’s soccer, (14-1-3) the No. 1 seed in the West Region, came in with the top defense in the NWAC, allowing only 11 goals on the season, including 8 shutouts.
While Whatcom, (18-1-3) the No. 1 seed in the North Region, and ranked No. 11 in the national junior college men’s soccer rankings, rode an 8-game win streak into the title game.
This matchup also featured the North-West Region Coaches of the year; Whatcom’s Jason Jorgensen, and Highline’s Mohn.
Highline vanquished Columbia Basin, 2-1, on penalty kicks (4-3) in the quarterfinals, then thumped Walla Walla, 4-1, in the Final Four.
“I told the guys at the beginning of the year, and the beginning of the playoff run, that you need something special to win championships,” Mohn said. “That last 10 minutes was special from us as a group.”
Dane Evanger (Most Inspirational), Head Coach Steve Mohn and tournament MVP Akili Kasim.