West Linn boys soccer falls 4-3 to Centennial in playoff opener
Some days, just getting a fast start means everything.
The Centennial boys soccer team — hosting West Linn in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 2 — scored just 18 seconds into their game and matched the Lions goal-for-goal the rest of the way to win 4-3 at Centennial High School.
"It was a tough game for us from the opening whistle, with us giving up a very early goal," said West Linn's first-year coach Steve Ancheta. "From then on, it looked like we were one step behind."
With the loss, the 20th-ranked Lions finished their season with an 8-7-0 overall record after finishing third in the Three Rivers League. No. 13 Centennial, meanwhile, improved to 10-5-0 overall after finishing tied for fourth place in the Mt. Hood Conference.
In addition to the early goal and the talented Eagles — they advanced to face No. 4 Clackamas in the second round on Tuesday, Nov. 5 — the Lions also had to deal with some difficult playing conditions.
"We also had a difficult time adjusting our game to their rough, grass, small, soccer pitch," Ancheta said, "(but) the boys never quit all night."
Centennial broke through for the game's first goal — by Andrew Martinez — to lead 1-0 just 18 seconds into the match, and Martinez scored twice more in the opening half to stake the Eagles to a 3-1 lead at the break.
West Linn sophomore Maxwell Kelly tied the game at 1-1 nine minutes after Centennial's first score, but Martinez tacked on his second and third goals after that, connecting with 26:20 to go in the half and again with 22:03 remaining.
The Lions rallied with a 2-1 scoring edge in the second half, sandwiching scores from senior Jacob Babalai and Kelley around the Eagles' last goal to close within 4-3. Babalai connected for his goal with 31:07 to go, Centennial's Geovanni Lugo answered on a free kick four minutes later, and Kelley came through with his second score with 14:44 remaining — but the Lions got no closer.
"We had a few quality chances late in the game to tie it up, but it just wasn't meant to be," Ancheta said. "Overall, give credit to Centennial for jumping on us early and making it hard for us to come back."
Despite the loss, Ancheta was proud of the Lions' efforts in his first year as head coach and excited to see what lies ahead for the program. The playoff loss marked the final West Linn game for seniors Noah Gitler, Kyle Gregg, Ian Pries, Chris Brazeau, Marco Kreske and Babalai.
"I'm very excited about the future of the program as we were pretty young this fall," Ancheta added. "I look forward to seeing us come back even stronger in 2020."
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