Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
Jose Mendez — with a huge assist from Eli Espana — continued his torrid scoring pace as Phoenix advanced to the semifinals of the Class 4A boys soccer state playoffs at U.S. Cellular Community Park Saturday.
The Pirates defeated Ontario, 1-0 in overtime, getting a goal from Mendez six minutes into the first of two 10-minute overtime periods.
It was Mendez's eighth goal in the past five games.
The victory sets up Phoenix (13-1-1) with a road playoff rematch against La Salle Tuesday. The Pirates beat the Falcons, 2-1, in the 2011 quarterfinals en route to finishing second in the state.
On Saturday, La Salle (15-2) advanced with a 2-0 win over Stayton.
Mendez, a junior center midfielder, received a pass from Espana and pounded in a shot from 6 yards out.
Espana, a junior forward, was on the right side of the 18-yard box when he dribbled past two Tigers players and drew goalkeeper Javier Amaral to him. As Amaral converged, Espana chipped the ball over his head to Mendez.
"It was a great play by Eli," said 18th-year Phoenix coach Dennis Flenner.
Otherwise, the game was a study in defense.
As often is the case in the playoffs, said Flenner, both teams were conservative at the outset. Phoenix outshot Ontario (11-5-1) in the first half, 5-1, "but it was more sparring" than anything, said Flenner.
"I felt like we controlled the game and pace and possessions more than they did," he said.
Offensive play intensified the second half, with Phoenix getting off nine shots, but Amaral thwarted the Pirates on several occasions.
"We kept putting the ball in the right spots and he kept us out," said Flenner.
Similarly, Hector Rocha was a stalwart in recording the shutout for Phoenix. He made two outstanding saves, including one in the second half that "could have been a game-changer," Flenner said of a play on which Rocha dove to deflect a shot to the outside of the goal.
The Pirate defense — Eddie Arevalo, Jesus DeLaCruz, George Pinon and Said Castillo — was again at the heart of the victory.
"They've (Tigers) got a couple of powerful strikers, and those guys kept them from shooting on our goal," said Flenner.
VALLEY CATHOLIC 6, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 0 — At Hillsboro, Cascade Christian played powerful Valley Catholic scoreless for the first 30 minutes in the state quarterfinal, but the District 1 champion scored three goals in a three-minute span to take control at Hare Field.
Cascade Christian, the District 4 third-place team, received strong performances from Jessica Weber and Katelyn Stephens. Weber, a sophomore goalkeeper, did a good job coming out of the net collecting the ball and had about 12 saves. Stephens, a junior, was a workhorse in the midfield for the Challengers (10-6-1), who reached the 3A quarterfinals for the first time.
Valley Catholic (12-0-2) will play Glide in next week's semifinals.
SISTERS 3, PHOENIX 0 — At Eugene, Phoenix couldn't untracked and lost its second straight match and was ousted from the state tournament at Lane Community College.
The Pirates (18-7) were defeated by Sisters, 25-16, 25-19, 25-19.
Phoenix coach Shonda Bursk praised the spirited play of the Pirates' lone senior, Delanie Tally.
CRESWELL 3, CASCADE CHRISTIAN 0 — At Eugene, Cascade Christian lost its second straight match at the state tournament, 25-18, 25-21, 25-14.
The Southern Oregon Hybrid-champion Challengers, playing at 8 a.m. for the second day in a row, finished the season with a 19-7 record.
Karlee Britton had nine kills and Elise Gardner seven to pace Cascade Christian, which made its second straight appearance at state. Kayla Winter added 26 assists, and MacKenzie Kelton recorded four service aces.
ASHLAND 8, WEST ALBANY 5 — At Beaverton, Ashland beat West Albany in the state championship match for the second year in a row thanks to a four-goal advantage in the final quarter.
After Ashland's Jericho Walker-Roberts tied the game at 5-all early in the fourth, Lewy Kurach scored the next three goals to help the Grizzlies clinch their second straight state title.
Kurach finished with five goals and two assists to lead the Grizzlies, and goalie Miles Furuichi had nine blocks, two assists and two steals. Three other Grizzlies — Nathan Markovich, Alex Sukles and Walker-Roberts — each scored a goal.
After the game, four Grizzlies were named to the all-state team and Kurach was voted the state tournament's most valuable player.
Kurach and Hoku Eggertsen were first-team all-state picks, while Sukles and Walker-Roberts gained second-team honors.