This week always figured to be a pivotal one for the Corvallis High boys soccer team, with two rivalry matches on the slate and a chance to take control of the Mid-Willamette League title race at stake.
If the Spartans are feeling any pressure with the season winding down, though, they aren’t showing it.
Corvallis put on a scoring display Tuesday as it topped Crescent Valley 5-0 in a home match at Bob Holt Stadium. With the win, the first-place Spartans (5-5, 4-0) kept pace in the league standings and set up a Thursday matchup against South Albany that could go a long way in deciding the league title.
“We eased into the game more than I would have liked,” Corvallis coach Chad Foley said. “But for the most part we executed our game plan and I was happy about that. Anytime you get into a rivalry game like this, you never really know what’s going to happen; there’s so much emotion involved. I thought our guys managed that emotion well.”
Corvallis didn’t need long to take hold of the game; Mauricio Nieves-Bernal buried a goal just 82 seconds after kickoff when he tapped in a shot from point blank.
The Spartans held the majority of possession from that point and later in the half began to turn that possession into scoring chances. In the 26th minute, Edgar Monroy created space for himself on the right side of the box with a pump-fake that turned two defenders. He then smoothly switched the ball to his left foot and pinged a low shot of the right post that found the back of the net to make it 2-0.
“Guys like Mauricio and Edgar, they know it’s their job to score and they do that job,” Foley said. “Everybody on the team has a job and they execute it, that’s what’s making this team special.”
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Before the halftime whistle blew, Nieves-Bernal and Monroy each scored a second goal. Late in the second half, freshman defender Gus Lerczak bagged a breakaway goal to close out the scoring.
“Not to be full of myself, but it’s nice to have someone who scores goals other than me,” said Monroy, who earned first team all-state honors at forward last season but has moved to a deeper-lying position in the midfield this year. “I love having (Nieves-Bernal) up there. I’m very happy to have him up there.”
Corvallis was voted third in the latest OSAA 5A coaches poll, but entered Tuesday sitting 10th in the state rankings. That discrepancy is due in part to the Spartans forfeiting their first four games of the season after the schools self-reported to OSAA that it had mistakenly played an ineligible player during those games.
“I don’t think it’s affecting us so much anymore,” Monroy said. “We’re first in league and we’re definitely bouncing back from that. We started to realize how it feels to lose. ... I think we all, as a team this year, have learned that no matter what we have to bounce back and do our thing.”
The Spartans will now prepare to host No. 2-ranked South Albany (7-3, 4-1) for a 6 p.m. Saturday matchup in the only regular-season matchup between the two teams this season. West Albany (8-3-1, 4-1) is also in the title mix, despite losing to South last week.
“I mean, anytime that you look at a week like this, where we’re scheduled to play two of our rivals, it’s a fun week,” Foley said. “It’s one that the guys look forward to. We will absolutely get up for that, as I’m sure South Albany will, too.”