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The belief was that eventually something was going to happen offensively.

Corvallis High controlled possession for most of the second half Tuesday night, pounding shots against Bend keeper Joel Witts and the Lava Bears’ defense.

David Nazario-Avalos provided all the offense the Spartans would need.

The senior midfielder corralled a loose ball and fired it past Witts in the 73rd minute for a 1-0 win in an OSAA 5A boys soccer state semifinal at Bob Holt Stadium.

“We felt like we knew it was coming. We had all the possession, all the chances, so we definitely felt like we had that game,” said Corvallis senior forward Dylan Heppell, whose team will meet Mid-Willamette Conference rival Woodburn in the championship game at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.

“With that many chances, you’re bound to score eventually and the guys just kept at it.”

Nazario-Avalos played a part in getting his team’s forwards the ball throughout. But an opportunity provided itself and he was suddenly in the spotlight.

He found open space, got his left foot on the ball with a low liner and waited to see what happened next. The ball took a small hop on the turf just before it got to Witts. The keeper reached to his left, but the ball got past him and into the net.

“I just remember doing a little fake, going to the left and hitting it. The next thing I know it was a goal,” Nazario-Avalos said.

Corvallis (15-1-1) and Bend (12-2-3) played to a 1-1 tie at CHS back on Oct. 9, so each knew what to expect from the other.

The Spartans had an advantage in possession and shots on goal in Tuesday’s first 40 minutes, but it wasn’t quite what coach Chad Foley was looking for from his squad.

“I felt in the first half we were almost too patient, especially when we got into that attacking third,” Foley said. “I really wanted to see that grit, to really get after it a little bit, and I saw that in the second half. They started taking more chances and they balanced it with possession and working that ball around.”

That charge came immediately in the opening minutes after halftime and lasted until Nazario-Avalos got the game-winner.

Heppell and Edgar Monroy took many of the shots off the chances provided. Three corner kicks by Nazario-Avalos provided other opportunities.

Having seen the Lava Bears before, the Spartans knew scoring wasn’t going to be easy. Bend allowed one or zero goals — seven total — in its final 14 games of the season.

“They like to grind out games and they were playing to their game plan,” Foley said. “An unlucky hop for them on a great shot was the difference.”

The Spartans gave up seven combined goals in three previous games, an uncharacteristic total for the defense, their coach said.

They focused in Monday’s practice on winning deep balls in the air with headers.

Foley credited the midfielders and center backs — Nick Hentzel, Jack Kellems, Riley Mellinger, Spencer Vingelen and Max Brune — for taking the pressure off keeper Roman Gabriel while keeping the ball away from the Lava Bears.

He singled out Kellems, a senior, specifically, for his work on headers, playing hard on tackles and playing with discipline.

“He set a level of physicality in this game that I don’t think was really matched by anybody. That was really impressive to me,” Foley said.

Corvallis defeated Woodburn (14-2-2) 5-1 at Bob Holt Stadium on Oct. 17, handing the Bulldogs just their second conference defeat in the 12-year history of the league.

Woodburn is the defending state champion and reached the state title game despite returning just one player from its 2016 roster. The Bulldogs have won four state championships and finished second four other times, including 2014.

Woodburn defeated Corvallis in the 2010 title game, a year after the Spartans won their second of two championships in program history. The first came in 1995.

Tuesday’s game was Corvallis’ first semifinal since 2010. Bend, which didn’t reach the state round of 16 in 2016, was playing its first semifinal since 2009.


Sports Reporter

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