Tualatin boys start strong, hold off West Linn
TUALATIN — The Tualatin High School boys soccer team had a dominant first-half performance.
West Linn fought back, in a big way, and seemed to take control in the second half.
But, fortunately for the Timberwolves, their first half showing was just a bit better than West Linn's second half determination.
Tualatin, after jumping out to a 3-0 halftime lead, held off the Lions to get a 3-2 victory in a Three Rivers League match held Tuesday at Tualatin High School.
"It went well," said Tualatin senior defender Nathan Buckalew, who scored the Wolves' first goal. "We started off extremely strong, the best we've played all year, in the first half. We fell apart in the second half, but we were able to close it out."
"We started off really strong in the first half, but once they got that first goal in the second half, we kind of got down," said Tualatin senior defender Hunter Popma, who scored the Wolves' third goal. "But we kept our composure in the end, which was good."
With the victory, Tualatin improved to 3-1 in TRL matches (4-2 overall), putting the Wolves in second place in the league standings.
"We're doing a lot better than I expected," Popma said. "We're playing really strong. We have good chemistry this year."
"We have a lot of young players," Buckalew said. "Last year, we graduated a lot of seniors, 15 or 16, but I think we have a lot of drive this year, and we're going to do well."
With the setback, West Linn moved to 2-1 in TRL contests (2-3 overall), putting the Lions in third place in the league standings.
"We got down 3-0, but we just wanted it," said West Linn junior Alec Sloan, who scored the Lions' first goal. "At halftime, we all came together and talked about it. We came out with passion, and we just wanted to play."
"We were really resilient, coming back in the second half," said West Linn sophomore Owen Caba, who scored the Lions' second goal. "Coach Steve (Ancheta) encouraged us in the second half to push forward and win every 50-50 ball that we could."
Buckalew helped the Wolves get off to a fast start to Tuesday's match, as he scored on a free-kick shot from 23 yards out, putting his shot into the left side of the West Linn goal, giving Tualatin a 1-0 lead with 28 minutes and 27 seconds left to play in the first half.
"I saw the wall, and I looked at the goal, and I hit it right under their feet, and it just rolled right into the goal," Buckalew said.
It didn't take long for the Wolves to strike again. Tualatin junior midfielder Drew Carlile, after taking a pass from senior Jose Hyre, put his ground shot from 27 yards away inside the right post of the West Linn goal, upping the lead to 2-0 with 23:23 remaining in the first half.
Popma capped off the first-half scoring. He went up high, very high, to get his head on a corner kick by Buckalew, and he was able to knock the ball off the right post of the goal, and to the back of the net, making the score 3-0 with 14:42 left in the first half.
"It came right to me, and I was able to place it perfectly into the top right part, right off the post," Popma said.
The Wolves kept the pressure on after that, getting shots on goal by Hyre and senior Nick Moreland in the final 13 minutes of the first half. Meanwhile, the Tualatin defense, including Popma, Buckalew, junior Cole Richmond and sophomore Hansi Katterle, among others, held West Linn to just one shot on goal in the first 40 minutes.
"We all played well collectively," Popma said of the first half. "Our defense played really well."
But it was a fired-up West Linn team that took the field for the second half.
Less than four minutes into the half, Caba launched a shot from 35 yards away, with Tualatin senior goalkeeper Ian Stuart having to leap to deflect the ball over the crossbar of the Timberwolf goal.
But with 33:34 left in the match, the Lions were able to break through. West Linn senior midfielder Kyle Gregg started the scoring play with a long free kick pass toward the front of the Tualatin goal. Sloan was able to work his way through a slough of players and deflect the ball into the goal, cutting the Timberwolf lead to 3-1.
"I got a glance off of it, and got it into the back," Sloan said. "It kind of rallied us. We just needed something to get us going. We needed something to build behind, and that goal got us going."
Then, with 22:04 left to play, Tualatin was whistled for a foul on the penalty box. Caba, taking the ensuing penalty kick, blasted the ball into the right side of the Timberwolf goal, cutting Tualatin's lead to 3-2.
"I just wanted to step up and get us one back in the match," Caba said. "I've been practicing those in practice."
"When they scored that first goal, they were still down two, but, when they got that second goal, I was really nervous," Buckalew said. "There was 20 minutes left, and they were only down one."
West Linn, trying to get the equalizer, got shots from senior Jacob Babalai, junior Cody Pierce, sophomore Ian Hansen and senior Noah Gitler in the final 20 minutes of the contest, but the Lions weren't able to convert on any of those attempts, leaving Tualatin with a hard-fought 3-2 victory.
"This win is huge for us," Popma said. "We knew, going into it, that they're a good team. We stepped up tonight. We played hard at the end."
"This was a lot of fun," Buckalew said. "I love games like this."
Tualatin had nine shots on goal and four corner kicks in the contest. West Linn had six shots on goal and four corner kicks.
"We just need to start our game better," Sloan said. "We need to come out with the passion that we had in the second half."
"We feel confident know that we can keep this going," Caba said.
The Lions will be back in action on Thursday, when they host league-leading Tigard in a match starting at 7:30 p.m. Tualatin will be back in action on Tuesday, when it will be home to face Lakeridge in a league match starting at 7 p.m.
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