What a difference a game makes.
After struggling in a 1-0 playoff win over David Douglas last Saturday in the OSAA state playoffs' opening round, the Forest Grove boys soccer team looked much more like themselves Wednesday, Nov. 6, defeating a gritty Central Catholic team 1-0 and in the process advancing to the tournament's quarterfinals.
"I think that was a quite beautiful performance by the kids," Forest Grove head coach Gracey Mosquera said. "They believed in themselves, had a lot of energy, and when that happens, things go well."
Obviously pleased with the result, the coach was equally pleased to see his team playing more like themselves in a game that asked everything from the No. 5-ranked Viks.
"It was completely different than last Saturday," he said. "You know, sometimes the confidence is not there. We weren't fighting for second balls (In the first round), we were reacting and not proactive, and it was completely different."
Despite the win and the improved approach, there was nothing easy about this game. Central Catholic gave Forest Grove everything they could handle for 70 minutes before junior forward Antonio Cipriano netted the game-winner on a rebound from a free kick by the Vikings' Alejandro Sanchez.
"It was a great feeling," Cipriano said about the goal. "It was my first goal in the playoffs in three years and it made me real happy."
Opportunities were limited for both teams in the first half, with Central Catholic's best chance coming from sophomore Carter Keyes who narrowly missed twice on shots from inside 20 yard, while the Vikings mostly peppered the Rams' goal from distance, despite pressuring for the majority of the back-end of the first half. Little changed in the second, as Forest Grove repeatedly penetrated deep into Rams territory, narrowly missing on several occasions as the result of what seemed to be a heightened level of aggression.
Mosquera said they made a slight tweak entering the second half, but noted that the plan was primarily the same, but it was the players and their approach that made the difference.
"The plan was the same in the second half, but we wanted to use the width of the field so we could stretch it with our wingers and use our centers to strike," the coach said. "But we talked during the week that whatever happens, we need to play with confidence and with our best game, and let the result go wherever it goes."
Cipriano agreed that the team played more relaxed, but also thought they were simply better than they were in their opener last weekend.
"I think we played pretty aggressive today," Cipriano said. "We kept possession of the ball, kept attacking constantly over and over, and then on the goal we finally broke through."
With 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Sanchez' free kick came following a takedown as Forest Grove had a relatively free run up the right side. On the free kick, Sanchez shot around the Rams' wall and goalie Sam Goodwill deflected the shot straight out from the goal. Cipriano however was there to corral the rebound and swiftly put it in the back of the net, giving Forest Grove the lead and setting off a massive celebration as the Viking players saluted the home crowd.
Central Catholic tried feverishly to come up with an equalizer over the final 10 minutes, but the home Viks thwarted their attempts and cruised to a win, along with a quarterfinal matchup with Centennial this weekend — something that failed to surprise the supremely confident Cipriano.
"We were kind of lost in the first game, but today we came out with the confidence that we were going to win and we all boosted each other up," he said. "Right from the last game we started thinking about this game. People were already saying, 'we're gonna win. We're gonna win.' And that's what happened."
Last year Forest Grove made it to the state semifinals before losing in overtime to Jesuit. That ride and the difficult defeat isn't lost on the team, and Cipriano said they're using it as motivation to continue to battle as the games and the pressure to succeed become that much bigger.
"We keep on reminding ourselves about how far we went last year and this year we're gonna push even harder to get to the finals," Cipriano said. "So we're gonna keep working hard after this game and just keep on improving."
Forest Grove will host Centennial at 1:00 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 9, at Forest Grove High School.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.