Evergreen, Mountain View still tied; Heritage with huge win; Skyview thinking big
VANCOUVER — They went in to the match tied for first place in the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League.
Evergreen and Mountain View boys soccer left McKenzie Stadium on Tuesday night still tied for first place.
Over in the 4A GSHL, Heritage beat Camas for the first time in program history and as of right now, the Timberwolves are in first place. That could change soon because Skyview has played one less game than Heritage. On the other hand, no one at Skyview is guaranteeing victory over anyone in the league.
In fact, from top to bottom in both leagues, this is one of the most competitive boys high school soccer seasons in recent memory. All five 4A GSHL teams have at least one league victory. All six 3A GSHL teams have at least two league victories.
As the athletes head into the final stages of regular season, every match matters and there are no sure things.
Want a sure thing? Head to the 2A GSHL. Columbia River, with three matches left, has already clinched at least a share of the league title with a 9-0 mark.
The 4A and 3A leagues, though, remain up for grabs.
Here are some notes on the three leagues:
We start at the 3A level because Evergreen and Mountain View hit the pitch Tuesday night with first place on the line.
Evergreen scored two quick goals in the first half and never trailed. Mountain View, though, rallied for a 3-1 halftime deficit to finish in a 3-3 tie. That left both teams at 5-1-1.
There were some intense moments and yellow cards in the rivalry matchup, but players from both sides also praised their opponents.
“They put their all into it, and we battled back and did the same,” Mountain View junior Justin Lufkin-Quant said. “I’m so proud of the boys. Dug deep. We needed it.”
“They’re aggressive. They know how to play,” Evergreen senior Levan Zhividze said. “They go at it. They don’t hold back. I respect that.”
Zhividze noted his team has a similar makeup. Mountain View tied the match at 3 at the same time Evergreen lost starting goalkeeper Blaine McKee to injury.
“We never let down,” Zhividze. “We just play through the adversity all the time.”
Can’t let down in this league. Evergreen holds the tiebreaker due to its victory over Mountain View earlier in the season. Prairie gave Evergreen its only loss of the league schedule, and Prairie is sitting at 3-4 in league play.
“We’ve got some solid teams,” Zhividze said. “You got one team beating someone, then losing to another. It just doesn’t make sense on paper. But everybody’s good.”
The coaches agree.
“It’s the one sport when all the teams are capable of being competitive,” Evergreen coach Keenan Burris. “You can lose to any team. We’ve been blessed to be on the winning end this year.”
Burris noted the play of Zhividze, who now has 19 goals this season, as well as Elijah Levin, Jaan Aguilar, and Nathan Cojocaru in leading the Plainsmen to first place.
Over at Mountain View, coach Dustin Johnson said the goal is to peak at the end of the season.
“We’re getting there. Always work to be done,” he said.
Lufkin-Quant went into the match leading the team in goals with four. Yes, four. That’s because the scoring is spread out so much between players. The Thunder do not need to rely on one player to do most of the scoring.
Joaquin Hernandez, Felix Diaz, Elijah Thompson, Lufkin-Quant and goalkeeper Nicolas Popoca were noted by Johnson as team leaders.
It is their job to keep the rest of the team focused, whether playing for first place or playing against the last-place teams. That is because even the last-place teams can get it done in the 3A GSHL.
“Every time we play, we have to prepare for the best,” Johnson said. “It makes the league that much more exciting. It helps players compete day in, day out.”
Evergreen got its goals from Elijah Lavin, Andres Bejar, and then Zhividze.
Mountain View got goals from Thompson, Hernandez, and Christopher Grozav. The equalizer came after a glorious 44-yard free kick from Lufkin-Quant. McKee made the initial save but Grozav got the rebound in front of the net.
McKee was injured on the play and taken by ambulance out of the stadium. Burris said Wednesday morning that McKee will return to the field this season.
In terms of the loss column, Skyview is in first place in the 4A GSHL at 3-1-1. But as of Wednesday morning, officially it is Heritage atop the league at 4-2. Yes, just like the 3A GSHL, nothing has been decided in the 4A GSHL.
The Timberwolves are thrilled with their performance Tuesday night.
“History was made tonight as the fellas got a 2-0 win over Camas,” the team’s Twitter account posted.
For a bit more on Heritage’s rise, check out our story from earlier this season on team leader Julian Bojorquez:
Skyview coach Colleen McKinney noticed the score, too. She was not surprised.
“I feel the boys respect each other. They can’t overlook any team by any means. We respect every program,” she said. “It’s not just Camas anymore.”
That was not meant to be a knock on Camas. After all, the Papermakers have made it to state 19 consecutive seasons. It is a compliment to the rest of the league, though, that as of today, Camas is in fourth place.
“I’m really glad we don’t play each other three times,” McKinney said about the league schedule. “Two times in enough. We don’t want to beat each other up.”
McKinney said team chemistry is key to success in high school soccer.
“In a short season, you’ve got to find the right person in the right position and the right mix of kids,” she said. “That’s what Heritage did. They found the right lineup.”
As far as the Storm, McKinney said her team is finding its chemistry and confidence. Yes, they would love a league title, but they are thinking beyond the 4A GSHL.
“The goal is to play a good game of soccer,” she said. “We’re hoping to win league. That would be a bonus. There are a lot of ways to win state. Our end goal is the state tournament, not necessarily to win league.”
She credited Michael Kimbrell, Andrew Harris, and Dylan Debaldo for their excellent leadership.
“We know it’s about coming together as a team at the right place at the right time,” McKinney said.
There is plenty of chaos in the 2A GSHL as well, just not at the top. Columbia River is 9-0 in league play. Woodland, R.A. Long, and Ridgefield all have three league losses.
While the Beavers, Lumberjacks, and Spudders battle for position, the Chieftains can at least start to look beyond league play.
“We have had a great run so far, and we are hoping that it will continue into the postseason,” Columbia River coach Filomon Afenegus said. “I would say our biggest strength is that our team really cares about each other.”
The Chieftains have 10 seniors and many have been playing together since well before their high school days.
“I really feel that our chemistry has been really great and this has led to our players willing to sacrifice for each other,” the coach said. “This essentially is the foundation that the team has been built on.”
It is certainly working. Columbia River has scored 26 goals in league play while conceding just four.