Blair advances to the second round of division 4A playoffs after beating Whitman 3-0
The Boys' Varsity Soccer team celebrated their first victory of in the 4A division playoffs on Friday, beating Whitman 3-0. Playing off of the momentum of their first goal, the Blazers managed to shut out the Vikings, whom they had tied in their only meeting during the regular season.
The two teams began the game evenly matched with both teams keeping the ball primarily in the midfield. Things changed in the 19th minute when senior midfield co-captain Mike McClain hit a clean shot into the goal off a deflected ball. "The first goal was crucial," coach Adrian Baez said.
Baez was happy to see his team play with the utmost intensity from the starting whistle, proving that they wanted to beat the team that gave them one of their two ties during the regular season. "We played as hard as we played them last time," Baez said. "Only this time, we got balls in the goal."
Enthusiasm pumped through the veins of the Blazers as they gained control over the field for the duration of the game. McClain, junior midfielders Erik Opsahl and Aaron Baldwin and freshman midfielder Jorge Pocheco dominated the middle of the field, making strong passes up the pitch in order to keep the ball near the Vikings' goal.
Pocheco, who has proven to be an asset to the team this season, made a series of powerful left-footed kicks up the sidelines to put the ball at the feet of Blair's forwards. One kick came after senior goalkeeper Alexis Castillo jumped over the heads of a cluster of field players, punching a shot out towards Pocheco.
The second goal of the game came after halftime in the 48th minute when Opsahl placed a ball from the left side of the field in front of the goal, giving McClain the opportunity to tap the ball in for his second goal of the night. "I made a good run down the field and Erik gave me a great ball," McClain said.
Blair's supremacy on the field was apparent in the second half as Blair players consistently beat Whitman to the ball. Opsahl used his speedy feet to maneuver around the Vikings, setting up many opportunities to score.
Close marking during free kicks and corner kicks also gave Blair an advantage on the pitch. What was a problem earlier in the season became useful as
Whitman received multiple free kicks in the second half. "We practiced corner kicks and free kicks," Baez said. "We really improved on those mistakes that we were making in early games."
A scoring opportunity presented itself to senior midfielder Mikey Funes in the 63rd minute as he dribbled the ball down the field, passing Whitman defenders and their keeper, who traveled far outside of the box. Funes placed the ball into the net with the utmost ease, widening Blair's lead to 3-0.
While the Blazers continued to make attempts on goal before the end of the game Whitman was also determined to score. But great saves made by Castillo and senior keeper Jose Sarmiento later left the Vikings goalless. McClain was overjoyed with his team's advancement to the next round of playoffs. "We came out today playing hard," he said. "The final score truly proves that."
Looking on to the next round, Baez hopes that his team will remember everything that they have learned this season and will continue their strong play on the field. "We are riding a wave right now," he said. "Hopefully we'll take that into Churchill."
The Blazers' next playoff game is on Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. away against Churchill.
Editors Note: Jose Sarmiento is the editor for the Spanish section of Silver Chips Online.
Jenna Bushnell. Jenna Bushnell likes sunshine and funfetti cupcakes. In her free time she enjoys excavating ancient Mayan temples, choreographing classic Broadway revivals, and smiling at strangers. For the right price, she will recite all of the words to "Rock Yo Hips" by Crime Mob. More »