PORTLAND — Driving deep into the state 3A soccer finals, Taft High School was eliminated 6-0 in a semi-final match Tuesday against No. 1 ranked Catlin Gabel.
“I’ve got to hand it to them, they were a solid team,” reflected head coach Ryan Ulicni, whose Tigers ended the season 17-1 overall, 14-0 in league. “There was a lot of back and forth. We pressed a lot, they pressed a lot, but they were just able to capitalize on the attacks.”
The loss was tempered by news that senior forward Edson Fuentes, the team’s leading scorer, was named Player of the Year for the Special District 2 conference. Fuentes and teammates William Caulderon and Jose Flores were named to the all-conference first team. Tapped for the second team were all-stars Alex Del Valle, Estib Hernandez and goalie Sam Cortes. Honorable mentions were awarded to Ethan Thomas and Mauricio Rivas.
Catlin Gabel scored its first goal early in the first half, followed by two more in the late minutes. The second half saw three more Eagle points, marking the first time this season the Tigers were held scoreless.
But there’s no reason to mourn, Ulicni asserted.
“If you’re going to lose, I’d rather lose to a team like that where we can learn something,” he said. “This is the kind of season every coach dreams of — undefeated in league, and a good run for the prize.”
Catlin Gabel, the current title holder, faces Oregon Episcopal Saturday in a rematch of last year’s state championship game.
Ulicni said the 2019 Tigers have helped spark a new soccer culture in Lincoln City, where soccer crowds are beginning to rival turnouts for football.
“It’s loud and exciting,” he said. “Nothing against football, but it’s a lot of starting and stopping. Soccer is nonstop for 40 minutes.”