Tigers rebound by blanking Lincoln
Having started the season 3-1-1, the Newberg boys soccer team was flying high entering last week's road contest at Wilsonville.
With just two non-conference games remaining, the Tigers saw an opportunity to enter Three Rivers League with a full head of steam as they eye a run at the conference crown this fall.
Newberg likes to play a counterattacking style on the road and for the most part controlled play and created more and better scoring opportunities than the Wildcats.
But an hour into the contest, the Tigers hadn't converted any of them, leaving themselves vulnerable for a result that did not quite reflect the quality of their play.
That's exactly what happened, as Wilsonville took advantage of a bouncing ball in the Newberg penalty area and poked home the winning goal with about 15 minutes to play.
"We controlled the game and had some great opportunities, we just didn't put them away," senior captain Kyle Charbonneau said. "It was just a bouncing ball that nobody cleared and there was just a huge pile and it got tapped in. It wasn't a very good goal, but it still went in."
The 1-0 defeat took the air out of the Tigers' tires, but they still had a chance to redeem themselves and set the tone for the rest of the season with a solid Lincoln team visiting Loran Douglas Field Monday.
That's exactly what Newberg did, blanking the Cardinals 3-0 to restore a bit of their swagger before Thursday's showdown with Lake Oswego, one of the favorites in the Three Rivers League title chase.
"This is huge for our team for confidence going into league," senior captain Nic Carsh said. "My dream has always been to win league and that's our team goal this year, so having confidence is important and getting this win at home."
Geronimo Lopez-Garcia opened the scoring with a beautiful goal and Carsh quickly followed up by stealing the ball from a Lincoln defender and going one-on-one with the keeper for his seventh goal of the season, but otherwise the Tigers weren't exactly on top of their game in the first half.
What impressed NHS coach M.J. Tate more was how the team completely shut down Lincoln in the second half, using its short passing game to dominate possession. The Cardinals saw very little of the ball, especially in Newberg's half of the field, and never threatened to get back in the game.
"After the loss, we all changed our mindset, I think," Carsh said. "We all took the weekend off, didn't have practice on Friday, just to think about the game, and we came back here ready to play. We had great support tonight, which is part of the reason we were able to do what we did."
Cole Alteneder put a cap on the game by heading home a loose and bouncing ball in the box to make it 3-0 with about 30 minutes to play. The senior winger joked afterwards that his goal-scoring drought was finally over.
"Every single season I've had like one or two games where I score," Alteneder said. "I was hoping this year I could get onto a roll. I finally got one. It was, honestly, just right place, right time. The goalie was on his line and the center back was too far out, so I just got in there."
Newberg (4-2-1) is now ranked No. 10 and enters league play having taken points in five of its first seven games and has already netted 15 goals this season, putting it well on pace to surpass the 25 it scored in the regular season last year, which was a new high-water mark in Tate's tenure.
And while the Tigers have certainly been better at finishing their chances than in previous seasons, they will likely have to step up their game even further if they hope to compete for their first-ever league title.
Newberg will be put to the test Thursday by No. 8 Lake Oswego (4-0-2), but regained a lot of the confidence that had ebbed following the result at Wilsonville.
"I think we can take what we did here into league and hopefully it can power us through," Charbonneau said. "I think if we can get the win over Lake Oswego, I absolutely believe we can win league."