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Wildcats became road warriors in postseason, defeating Ashland & battling Central in quarterfinals

Wilsonville goes South

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - WIlsonville's Samuel Blohn.The way Wilsonville started off its season, it could be easily understood if the team was written off. Clearly talented, the team struggled to string together success in the preseason, racking up a 2-4-2. At the outset of league play the team continued to search for footing as the postseason loomed, going 1-2 in its first three Northwest Oregon Conference (NWOC) contests.

However, after a 2-0 loss to No. 1 ranked La Salle, the Wildcats seemingly turned a corner. The team won its final four league games, outscoring the opposition 17-0 in that stretch to take second place in the NWOC. The team entered the postseason ranked 12th overall, and its first challenge was to battle the fifth-ranked Ashland (8-4-2) on the road Tuesday, Oct. 30.

"We knew coming in that we had a lot of obstacles in our way," Wilsonville head coach Ian Reschke said. "Away game against a higher seeded team after a long bus ride, we knew it was a tall task, but we talked the guys through all of these things in the days leading up to the game. I think they were prepared mentally for what was ahead of them."

The game started off with the two teams feeling each other out, determining one another's playmakers. Near the 20-minute mark, Wilsonville found its first goal of the match. Junior Daniel Espinoza pushed the ball into the Ashland box where, after a few touches, sophomore Adam Landy was finally able to send it into the back of the net. The score stayed that way for the duration of the half.

Ashland equalized the game two minutes into the second half, and the two teams battled to a draw by the end of regulation. Heading into the first overtime, the two teams continued to battle it out, drawing near to exhaustion. Junior Sam Blohn took a strong shot on goal that was mere inches from scoring, had it not been for Ashland's keeper making a great save.

Flash-forward into the second overtime with two minutes left in that period, senior Zachary Gibson placed a cross into the Ashland box that passed through traffic. Freshman Joseph Friedman managed to cross it back across the goal where Landy scored the decisive goal. Wilsonville took to the road and won 2-1, securing a spot in the quarterfinals.

"There is a lot of motivation that comes from not making the playoffs last year for both players and coaches," Reschke said. "In the preseason we had two goals: make the playoffs and peak at the right time, during playoffs to make a run for the state title. I believe we have put ourselves in a great position to give ourselves a chance at that."

Wilsonville travels

to Central High

In the next round of playoffs, Wilsonville once again traveled to enemy territory. This time, the Wildcats were matched up with Central High School in Independence Saturday, Nov. 3. Playing in arguably the best league in 5A soccer, Central came into the contest sporting a 10-2-2 overall record. The Wildcats knew they had their work cut out for them.

"We felt good," Reschke said. "I felt like we were ready. There was definitely confidence after beating Ashland. We knew we could go on the road and win, we'd done it before this season. The guys were confident too coming in. Not overly confident, but I think they came in with a relaxed intensity that they needed."SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Junior defender Henry Tellez takes a goal kick against the Central Panthers. Wilsonville was defeated in the quarterfinals 1-0.

The first half saw both teams battling back and forth over the midfield, but Central appeared to have a slight advantage early. The Panthers had two corner kicks in the first 10 minutes, but both were defended out by the Wilsonville backline. Flipping the field, the Wildcats were able to get a few corner kick attempts on goal of their own near the 15-minute mark, but those were likewise defended out.

The closest attempts at goal during the first half came on Central attempts. One shot ricocheted off of the crossbar at the 12 minute, and in the seventh minute a save by senior goalkeeper Zach Brehm kept the score at 0-0 when the buzzer rang for halftime.

Coming out of half, the two teams continued to duke it around midfield. Four minutes in, Wilsonville got as close as it would get during the game to a goal. Junior defender Henry Tellez took a massive free kick that was only narrowly punched away, and moments later Blohn took a shot of his own that was deflected off the side post.

In the 29th minute, senior midfielder Ruben Lopez took a shot of his own that went sailing over the crossbar.

"We knew it was going to be a battle from the start," Lopez said. "We just had to come in with great intensity. We were on a roll, we were on a five-game streak, and knowing this team was going to give us a great battle. This team is tough, they're in the best league in Oregon, and we knew we had to give them everything. We just prepared ourselves the best we could."

From there on out though, the Central attack was relentless. Forced on the back foot for the near entirety of the rest of the game, Wilsonville's midfield and backline did enough to keep the ball from getting into the net, but were unable to mount a strong counterattack. In the last 10 minutes of the game, the Panthers were attacking continuously, and finally found a goal. Senior Eduardo Gonzalez put the ball over Brehm at 3:05 of the second half and, despite a desperate Wilsonville counterattack, rode out the reminder of the clock for a 1-0 victory.

Wilsonville ends its season with an 8-7-2 record, including victories in five of its last six games. Central moves on to face NWOC champion La Salle Prep in the semifinals.

"I feel really good about the season," Lopez said. "We've grown as a team, made a lot of changes. Everybody on the team has grown, including myself. I've grown a lot this year."

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