High school boys soccer and baseball state playoffs begin this week
Matt Newman understood the challenge when he took over the Columbia River boys soccer program over the winter.
Clearly, he did not need to perform an overhaul or rebuild a program. Not at tradition-rich Columbia River.
But he still had a challenge: Keep the Rapids moving forward, under new leadership from the bench, with a vision for the future, and a nod to the past.
It has worked.
Columbia River is 20-0 this season. The Rapids have outscored opponents 102-6. With those impressive numbers, it is no wonder the team earned the No. 1 seed to the upcoming Class 2A state boys soccer playoffs.
The Rapids will take on No. 16 Foster at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Columbia River in the first round of state.
Columbia River is one of five boys soccer teams from Clark County, in various classifications, to make it to state.
In baseball, four Clark County teams have made it to state regionals and will play Saturday in hopes of winning two games to make it to the final four.
Softball teams, meanwhile, will be in district and bi-district play this week, looking to clinch trips to state.
For soccer and baseball teams, Columbia River is the lone local school to earn a top seed.
“When you have to follow Filly’s footsteps, you have to do something well to prove yourself,” Newman said.
That would be Filomon Afenegus, longtime River coach who resigned his position from the boys team during the offseason. Newman, who has been working with Afenegus for seven years, was the pick to take over the program.
“I wanted to continue the tradition that was built before me,” Newman said. “ My objective was, these guys don’t skip a beat. It’s really important for our kids to understand the River past so we can move into the future and continue the winning culture River has.”
A quick look at the record books: Columbia River won the state title in 2018, finished second in 2019, had great teams in 2020 and 2021 that were unable to compete at state due to the government’s reaction to the pandemic, and the 2022 team made it to the final four before finishing third.
It is not just a winning culture, it is a winning expectation. Newman said it starts with the athletes.
“We still have our leadership team,” he said, noting several seniors, juniors, and even some sophomores who are constantly showing others the River Way.
By doing this, that culture continues. Today’s freshmen will be leading the way in a couple of years. Newman said the leadership team will continue as long as he is the coach.
Newman said it has been an “honor” to take over the program from such an accomplished coach as Afenegus. Plus, Newman’s dad, Brian, is the head coach at Ridgefield. He said his dad’s philosophy is blue collar, hard working. Afenegus is all about building culture and leaders.
“It’s a cool experience to test out both of those philosophies and create my own,” Matt Newman said.
But, again, he said, his job is trouble-free because of the athletes he has, and not just because of their physical skills on the field.
“It’s easy when you have a lot of great leaders already,” Newman said.
The coach added he is proud of the No. 1 seed. It shows that River’s work to this date has been recognized. But he has been cautioning his players that it also means everybody will be coming after the Rapids. Foster, for example, might be a 16-seed, but Foster is coming to Vancouver with the mentality of getting the victory.
The Rapids must be ready.
Newman does love the top seed for another reason. If River wins on Wednesday, the team will get another home match in the quarterfinals, likely on Saturday.
The final four for Class 2A is in Renton May 26-27.
In Class 4A soccer, the Union Titans were selected as the 12-seed. The Titans will travel to Spokane for the opening round match against No. 5 Gonzaga Prep at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
In 2A, Hockinson will join Columbia River as teams from Clark County in the Sweet 16. Hockinson is the 15-seed and will play at 6 p.m. Tuesday at No. 2 North Kitsap.
In Class 1A, Seton Catholic and King’s Way Christian have made it to state. The 1A tournament features 20 teams, so the bottom-eight seeds will play early in the week, with the top-12 seeds waiting until Friday for their first matches of the tourney.
Seton Catholic is No. 7 and will take on No. 10 Royal at 5 p.m. Friday at Montesano High School. The winner will play in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
King’s Way Christian earned a 12-seed and will face No. 5 Cascade of Leavenworth at 4 p.m. Friday at Highland High School. The winner will play in the quarterfinals Saturday.
Clark County High school baseball fans will be able to watch three state tournament games Saturday. One of the Class 1A regionals will have a local presence.
La Center earned the No. 2 seed in the 1A baseball tournament and will be the “host” at Camas High School. La Center will take on No. 15 Lynden Christian at 1 p.m. Cashmere (No.10) will take on Cedar Park Christian of Bothell (No. 7) at 10 a.m. The winners will play in the regional final later on Saturday.
King’s Way Christian got the 16-seed and will face Naches Valley at Parker Field in Yakima. The winner will play later that day in the state regional final.
In Class 4A, the Camas Papermakers survived the bi-district tournament to represent the 4A Greater St. Helens League at state. Camas earned a 9-seed from the committee and will take on No. 9 Kamiakin at Eastlake High School in Sammamish. That game is at 1 p.m. The winner will then take on the winner of No. 1 Eastlake vs. No.16 Rogers of Puyallup.
In Class 2A, Hudson’s Bay is making its first trip to the state baseball tournament since 2006. The Eagles are the 11-seed but don’t have to travel too far. They will take on No. 6 White River at 1 p.m. Saturday at W.F. West High School in Chehalis. The winner will play the winner of No. 3 W.F. West vs. No. 14 Port Angeles.
For state soccer information, go to the WIAA’s soccer page: https://www.wiaa.com/subcontent.aspx?SecID=296
For state baseball information, go to the WIAA’s baseball page: https://www.wiaa.com/subcontent.aspx?SecID=294
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