Forest Grove boys soccer claims Pacific Conference title
We are the champions.
The Forest Grove Vikings boys soccer team can sing it loud after defeating McMinnville 1-0 in their regular season finale Monday night, Oct. 25, at Forest Grove High School.
Ben Bradshaw's goal off of a Bryan Rodriguez cross in the game's 88th minute proved to be the game-winner, but it was the overall team effort throughout that ultimately led to the win and the program's first league championship in more than a decade.
"The team really came together and pulled through, and we got the victory," Bradshaw said after being lost for words. "I think it's a credit to everyone because this whole team believes, and I think you saw that tonight."
The first half was played primarily in the midfield and neither team was able to take advantage of what proved to be a limited number of opportunities. But in the second half the game seemed to take on a more aggressive tone, and as it progressed the Vikings â€“ despite a tiring pace â€“ seemed to be energized by the opportunity before them.
Bradshaw noted that desire, but also pointed to the work that they and their coaches put in during the week in practice that allows them to operate late in games.
"Fitness is never an issue for us, and credit to the coaches for that," he said. "It's always been a focus for us and I think that really showed because we never stopped attacking. We all have that belief and knowledge that if we keep going we'll be the last team standing."
Bradshaw's goal was the product of a beautiful cross from Rodriguez'. The junior forward played a pivotal role all night and repeatedly applied pressure to the Grizzlies defense, none greater than on the scoring play when he angled through Mac defenders right of the goal, then lined a ball to the far post where a slicing Bradshaw one-timed it into the back of the net.
No one was happier than Rodriguez after the game, and no one was more appreciative of the win that he wanted for the people closest to him.
"That was for everyone," Rodriguez said. "For my family, the team, everyone. I was really cramping late, but I knew I had to do it for my team."
Part of that team was Vikings senior goalkeeper Jose Bazan Olvera, who â€“ along with McMinnville keeper Kaleb Devore â€“ played phenomenally throughout. Bazan stoned Grizzly attackers from start to finish, including a pair of impressive stops during a five-minute stretch midway through the second half that saw both teams narrowly miss opportunities to take the lead.
Bazan wasn't much interested in taking credit for the win, but was appreciative of just what the victory and the championship that came with it meant to he and his teammates.
"Oh man, this is one of the top-5 times in my life to be honest," the goalie said. "It's my job to protect the goal and I'm glad I was able to do that. It's been since like 2008 since we've won a conference championship, so to be a part of that is really amazing."
While it was undoubtedly time to celebrate, Bradshaw knew that come tomorrow their attention would have to turn to the upcoming postseason â€“ where they hope to accomplish even more.
"I know the team is ready for it," Bradshaw stoically said. "We lost to Summit in the semifinals two years ago and that's like daily motivation. You live for those big games, and I think it's everyone's dream to get back there and actually win."
Forest Grove will open the playoffs Saturday, Oct. 30.
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