Newberg downs Sunset to qualify for the playoffs, then beats Sunset 3-1 on penalty kicks to advance

BEAVERTON — The playoffs are a whole new season, which is a good thing for Newberg boys soccer team, because the Tigers look like a whole new team since ending the regular season with three consecutive losses.

The streak dropped Newberg into sixth place in the Pacific Conference, but the Tigers quickly put that behind them with a decisive 2-0 home victory over Sprague in a play-in game Oct. 29 at Loran Douglas Field.

Head coach M.J. Tate’s squad then took a program-level step by topping Sunset 3-1 in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw Saturday, sending Newberg to the second round for the first time since moving to 6A, or perhaps even further SETH GORDON - Box out - Paul Sweet shields a defender from the ball during Newberg' 2-0 play-in victory over Sprague Oct. 29 at Loran Douglas Field. Sweet later converted a penalty kick in the Tiger's first-round-victory over Sunset on Saturday.

“No matter if we won it in regulation or overtime, I just felt like we were going to win,” Tate said. “We’re so strong mentally right now we could still be playing today and they would never score on us.”

The Tigers (8-5-2) felt equally impervious to Sprague’s offense, which was practically nonexistent in the first half as the Olympians packed defenders into their own half of the field, leaving just a lone striker up top.

It took Newberg some time to break them down, but senior Stefan Vincent, whose return from injury has revitalized the squad, finally unlocked the puzzle with 8:39 left to play in the first half.

Vincent, who has moved from center back to holding midfielder, collected a throw in at the left edge of the penalty box, then maneuvered himself into a bit of space and blasted a shot across the face of goal and into the upper right corner.

Now trailing, Sprague had to come out of its own end in the second half, finally opening up the game, but the Tigers were never threatened.

Just under eight minutes into the second half, Brandon Cortez doubled the lead and removed any shred of doubt about the result by pouncing on a cross from Jonathan Bos and scoring from eight yards out.

With Vincent moving to holding midfielder, freshman Peter Gentile started his second game at center back against the Olympians and proved to be the lynch-pin of the defense in the stiffer test against Sunset.

“He was absolutely monstrous,” Tate said. “You would never think that he’s 14 years old. He put in just an incredible performance.”

After the game got off to a plodding start, Newberg began to create chances in the second half and really turned it on in the last 10 minutes of regulation and the two 10-minute overtime periods, but could not cash in.

Tate was just as confident heading into penalty kicks, not only because he had drilled the team extensively in preparation for them, but due to the presence of tall and athletic goalie Ryan Vincent.

Vincent promptly scored for Newberg on the first attempt, then jumped in goal and saved the Apollos’ first effort.

Twin brother Stefan Vincent hit the crossbar on his attempt in round two, giving Sunset a chance to tie the match, which it did.

Junior midfielder Paul Sweet then put the Tigers up 2-1 with a well-placed penalty and Ryan Vincent picked up his second save to preserve that edge.

Neither team scored in the fourth round, giving senior defender Victor Peinado a chance to seal with win, which he calmly did.

“I could not have seen a more perfectly executed tactical plan and they outcompeted Sunset,” Tate said. “The boys are convinced they can’t get scored on.”

Newberg advanced to face No. 3 West Linn Tuesday (results unavailable at press time) in a rematch from the second game of the season, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

The Tigers’ two shutouts last week pushed their season total to nine in 15 games.

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