The Columbia High boys soccer team entered its Southwest District Class 1A Tournament loser-out match on Tuesday at Toledo/Win-lock as an underdog to qualify for its sixth consecutive WIAA state tournament.
The Bruins (9-6) and the United (10-5), the 1A Trico League’s No. 4 and No. 2 teams, split their two regular-season matches, with each team winning at home. The winner of Tuesday’s contest will play Hoquiam, the Evergreen League’s No. 1 team, on Thursday evening in Kalama for a berth to state. (The result of Tuesday’s match was unavailable be-fore this week’s press deadline.)
CHS earned its district spot by winning a play-in match last Saturday against Evergreen No. 3 Montesano, 2-1.
Columbia already had locked up fourth place in final Trico standings but unexpectedly lost its finale at King’s Way, 5-2, last Friday.
The loss followed a come-from-behind 3-2 home-field victory over Seton Catholic on May 6, on Columbia’s Senior Night.
Columbia 2, Montesano 1 (at Elma): Senior midfielder Chema Gonzalez’s goal in the 63rd minute proved to be the difference in the winner-to-district match.
Gonzalez dribbled past Montesano defenders, found himself one-on-one with the Bulldogs’ goalkeeper, and slotted his shot into the far post for a 2-1 lead.
Bruins Coach Christopher Cramer said Montesano pres-sed on and had a few chances hit the post late in the game, but CHS held on for the win.
“Montesano was tied for first going into the final game of the Evergreen League season, and instead of being league champions, they end-ed up third,” Cramer noted. “We knew their ranking meant little about their quality as a team.”
Columbia struck first, getting a goal from junior right back Rodrigo Cortes in the sixth minute, following five minutes of solid possession and set-up.
“As we worked the ball around the top of the box, junior forward Luis Pascual laid off a pass toward the right side that Rodrigo ran onto, striking the ball with the outside of his right foot and curling it into the top left corner,” Cramer noted.
Pascual received credit for assists on both CHS goals.
Montesano evened the score at 1-1 midway through the first half when Brandon Lovell turned at the top of the box and blasted a shot into the roof of the net.
At that point, Cramer said, the action settled down and became much more back and forth, though the Bruins outshot the Bulldogs, 11-6, and “was a more consistent threat at goal.”
Columbia played the game without senior midfielder Gabe Guzman, who received a red card against King’s Way for protesting the Knights’ fifth goal. As a result, Guzman had to serve a one-game suspension and missed the Montesano tilt.
At Columbia 3, Seton 2: Luis Pascual scored two goals and Chema Gonzalez had one as the Bruins won their Senior Night match and home-field finale.
Seton broke a 0-0 deadlock about 15 minutes into the first half. Just before halftime, Pascual took charge of a carelessly cleared ball from a Seton defender. Pascual went hard to the ball, touched it past a defender, then exploded toward the goal. He finished one-on-one with the keeper and won the battle with a rocket shot into the net.
The Cougars answered early in the second half for a 2-1 lead that it held until 10 minutes remained in regulation.
“On Senior Night, it was fitting that two seniors combined for the game-tying goal,” Cramer said.
Midfielder Gabe Guzman got the ball wide of the goal and sent in a low cross that a Seton defender managed to deflect. Gonzalez sprinted to the ball and blasted a shot into the upper left corner.
“With that goal the team was rejuvenated,” Cramer said. “We continued to press the Seton goal and sophomore forward Ivan Cortes missed just wide on two occasions in a matter of minutes.”
With about 5 minutes to go, Columbia earned a free kick at the top of the box. Pascual stepped into the ball and curled his shot into the net for a 3-2 advantage.
“Our win knocked Seton out of contention for the league title and handed it to La Center,” Cramer noted. “Most importantly, this game was about boosting our confidence as we head into the district playoffs.”
At King’s Way 5, Columbia 2: Everything was going the Bruins’ way early in the match. Sophomore Ivan Cor-tes got taken down in the box to earn a penalty, and senior Chema Gonzalez converted from the spot for a 1-0 lead.
“However, minutes later a comedy of errors led to three quick King’s Way goals,” Cramer said. “The momentum swung heavily toward King’s Way at that point; their players and staff were buzzing. We made some adjustments, but could never really get going.”
CHS trailed 3-1 at halftime but soon found itself down by three goals after a quick goal by King’s Way to open the second half.
With about 12 minutes left, the Bruins started to find their rhythm and Cortes made good on it by bagging a goal that pulled CHS within 4-2.
“We continued to press and it almost felt like we could pull off another comeback like we did versus Seton, but it wasn’t to be,” said Cramer.
The Knights notched a fifth, albeit contentious, goal on an odd drop-ball restart following CHS’s second goal. Cra-mer protested the call but the referee let the goal stand.
“Our team expected, as is common soccer courtesy and sportsmanship, that they would play the ball back to our keeper. Instead, they played the ball to the corner for their forward, who ran onto it and knocked it into the net,” Cramer said.