Ben Bradshaw scores two goals to help lift the Vikings into the playoffs' second round.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Southridge's Miles Chen battles for a ball with Forest Grove's Samuel Mejia during the teams' first round playoff game Saturday, Oct. 30, at Forest Grove High School.It wasn't perfect, but it was a win.

The Forest Grove boys soccer team kicked-off the 2021 postseason with a 3-2 win over Southridge Saturday evening, Oct. 30, at Forest Grove High School. But while it ended the way they wanted, how they got there could've been better – and senior defenseman Ben Bradshaw expects you'll see that going forward.

"I think the team really grinded it out," a hesitant Bradshaw said. "I think it was one of those games where we know we can play better because we know we have a higher level, and I think through the playoffs you're going to see us reach that higher level as we come together as a team."

Individually, Bradshaw scored twice, netting the Vikings' first goal in the first 10 minutes and putting them back ahead in the 25th minute after Southridge's Ben Kushner tied the game two minutes prior. But as a collective the Vikings were good, not great, and Bradshaw knows they'll have to be better if they want to continue winning as the competition stiffens up.

"I think getting everyone connected is probably our biggest challenge right now," Bradshaw said. "I think the veterans on this team did a really good job coming out and showing their experience and really just getting the job done, and I think the younger guys, with a game under their belt, are going to step up in a huge way for us and that's what we need. We just need to get that team chemistry together and we'll be good."

Vikings head coach Gracey Mosquera was – for the most part – happy with his team's performance, but said their intensity waned as the game went on and that's something they'll need to improve upon going forward.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Samuel Mejia controls a ball during the Vikings' first round playoff matchup with Southridge Saturday, Oct. 30, at Forest Grove High School."I think we came out strong in the first half, but as the game went on we lost a little of our edge and Southridge was able to catch up a bit," the coach said. "But this is a playoff game and they are a good opponent, so I want to congratulate my team because at the end of the day we got the win, however I think we'll need to get a little bit stronger for the games coming up."

After Bradshaw's second goal put the Vikings ahead 2-1, Forest Grove (10-4-1) opened-up a two-goal lead when junior Ryan Sanchez made it 3-1 in the 36th minute. But Southridge continued to fight and cut the lead to 3-2 in the 67th minute when senior Andrew Kraemer tapped-in a loose ball near the goal area.

The Skyhawks narrowly missed a game-tying opportunity a few minutes later when Miles Chen's shot from the top of the 18-yard box erred just high, and ultimately the clock ran out on Southridge. But there was no quit in the visiting Metro League squad and head coach Juan Villanueva said the game – along with the season as a whole – would be something to continue building upon as they work towards ascending to greater heights.

"The boys demonstrated a lot of heart today and never gave up," Villanueva said. "We came in here feeling confident in ourselves. The rankings didn't really define where we are as a team and we knew it was going to be a tough matchup, but we believed we could win."

The Skyhawks coach said he was proud of his team in defeat and added that the season as a whole was a success despite the first round loss to the Vikings.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Southridge's Ben Kushner attempts a corner kick during the Skyhawks' first round playoff game against Forest Grove Saturday, Oct. 30, at Forest Grove High School."This team exceeded my expectations," he said. "We hadn't made the playoffs in almost a decade, so it's been a long rebuilding the last four years. These seniors have had ups and downs this year and they put it together to make the playoffs, so I'm very proud of what they've done and accomplished this year."

Now, while Southridge (7-6-2) calls it a season, the Vikings will travel to Lakeridge for a second round game with the No. 8-ranked Pacers at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3. Mosquera said they won't be intimidated by the team or the moment and added that it's important that they bring a bit of swagger to the game in order to be successful.

"I don't want them to play relaxed," he said. "We need to have that confidence that makes you walk with your chest out, but also keeps you grounded. It's a balance. We have to believe, but at the same time have to respect our opponent and take care of business."

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