LINCOLN CITY — The undefeated No. 5 Taft Tigers (17-0 overall, 14-0 league) blocked a second-half effort by Riverdale (10-3-1 overall) Saturday to win a state soccer quarterfinal playoff, 2-1.
It was only the second time that Taft had such a close brush, counting their 2-1 win over Western Christian Oct. 23. Blowout specialists, the unusually narrow-spread gave the Tigers a ticket to the 3A semi-final state playoff game with No. 1-ranked Catlin Gabel (17-0). Look for coverage of the Tuesday, Nov. 12, game in Friday’s News-Times.
Taft scored 10 minutes into the first half after forward Sammy Vasquez recovered a field goal attempt. Passing to leading scorer Edson Fuentes at the 18-yard line in a well-composed play, Fuentes nailed the point.
Riverdale scored halfway through the second half on a dribbling press to the goal line to even the score. But their relentless offense ran up against Taft goalkeeper Sam Cortez, who accounted for eight saves during the contest. Fuentes, meanwhile, lurked around the Riverdale goal line long enough to take a pass and slip it around the goalie for the winning point.
Coach Ryan Ulicni credited the “12th Man” for animating the Tigers.
“The home crowd was loud and awesome, the kind of crowd that gives us energy and responds to every move,” he said. “It was nice.”
That home field advantage will give way in the quarterfinal, however. Not to worry, concluded Ulicni.
“I’m not sure what the secret is for Catlin Gabel,” he reasoned, reflecting on a Tigers strategy built around persistent passing. “For us, it’s sticking to our game plan.”