They weren’t meant to get this far, a soccer team so young they might as well be called the Central Valley Cubs.
But there they were Tuesday night, with just three seniors in the lineup, dominating their first-round 4A state playoff game against Curtis of Tacoma: 11 shots on goal compared to three for the visitors, and a game contested mostly on the visitors’ end of the field.
“But we just couldn’t put in the net,” lamented CV coach Andres Monrroy after his team lost 1-0 following a penalty- kick shootout.
After seemingly playing just to reach the shootout, the Vikings were perfect once they got there: their first four shots were perfectly placed past CV goalkeeper Kendall Findley. The Bears made their first three shots, but Curtis keeper Mason Mahoney blocked the fourth try, by Brock Benzel.
The final Curtis kicker, Riley Hess, also drilled his shot into the net, setting off a celebration among the visitors and a few stunned looks among the 400 fans at CVHS Stadium.
While Curtis advances to the quarterfinals, Monrroy was left to console his players and wish them well for next year. “I told them how proud I was, but sometimes soccer goes like that: you dominate, but if it goes to a shootout, then it’s 50-50.”
The run of play was anything but 50-50; Central Valley dominated regulation play, especially in the first half. Ten minutes in, Brian Choate shook a defender and sent a strong cross that was knocked down and cleared inches from goal.
The Bears (13-3) had more chances in the second half against a chippy Curtis team that picked up two yellow cards. A corner kick was cleared off the line by a defender in the 63rd minute; seconds later, CV senior Miguel Naves broke into the clear, but Mahoney came off his line and saved the ball at Naves’ feet.
“Their goalkeeper really kept them in the game,” Monrroy said of Mahoney, who replaced starter Carter Shirreff and made seven saves in the second half.
At the other end of the field, Findley was forced to make just three saves.
CV also had the better of it in the two overtimes, there would be no golden goal – unlike Benzel’s game-winner in last week’s 1-0 regional win over Pasco. Curtis (13-3-4) defended well, and was battle-tested in close games, including a shootout win last week of Thomas Jefferson that helped get the Vikings to state.
“You have to give them credit – they drove all the way across the state and beat us on our own field,” Monrroy said.
When it was over, Monrroy hugged every player, especially seniors Benzel, Naves and Karl Ellingson. The future is bright, even if they won’t be part of it.
“This was disappointing,” Ellingson said. “But this isn’t about me – it’s about the next two years, to show the younger guys that leadership is important.”
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