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SOU men cruise into CCC tourney semifinals

SPRINGFIELD — Everything fell into place for the Southern Oregon men’s soccer team Tuesday in the quarterfinal round of the Cascade Conference Championships presented by U.S. Bank.

Sam Walker gave the third-seeded Raiders an early lead by rebounding Adrian Villegas’ shot off the post, and Zak Woolley added ample insurance with two goals on set pieces in a comfortable 3-0 win over sixth-seeded Northwest (Wash.).

Before the Raiders (13-5-1 overall) ever took the field at Les Schwab Sports Park, seventh-seeded Evergreen (Wash.) did them a favor by knocking second-seeded Rocky Mountain (Mont.) out of the tournament.

So instead of facing Rocky — the defending tourney champion and the team responsible for SOU’s most recent loss 10 games ago — the Raiders will play their semifinal game at 4 p.m. today against fifth-seeded Eastern Oregon (9-8-2), which got by Oregon Tech in penalty kicks following a scoreless draw. And as long as top-seeded Corban takes care of Evergreen in the other semifinal, the SOU-EOU winner will automatically receive the CCC’s second automatic bid to the NAIA Championships Opening Round.

Now 8-0-1 over their last nine games, the Raiders experienced no hiccups against Northwest (9-9-1) while compiling a 16-3 advantage in shots on goal.

Walker, a freshman, put back Villegas’ shot in the 12th minute, giving Walker his sixth goal and Villegas his 12th assist. Woolley, a sophomore defender, deposited his third and fourth goals of the season via corner kicks by Luis Aguilar in the 25th minute and Junior Rivas in the 60th.

The Raiders were awarded nine corner kicks during the contest and the Eagles didn’t have any. Aguilar picked up his fourth assist and Rivas was credited with his third.

“We started the game really threatening offensively and the boys did a nice job of sticking to the game plan,” SOU head coach Davie Carmichael said. “The game slowed down a little around halftime but we picked it up again and just had the better opportunities all day.”

The Eagles had three shots on goal against SOU keeper Wyatt Zabinski, who earned his sixth solo shutout of 2019 a day after being named a first-team All-CCC performer for the third time.

The Raiders are now 6-0-2 in four appearances at the CCC Tournament.

They’ll see Eastern Oregon for the second time this season and the first time ever in postseason play. On Oct. 12 in Ashland, they scored twice in the final 19 minutes for a 2-0 victory, though the Mountaineers played a man down from the ninth minute on.

Southern Oregon University defender Zak Woolley scored a pair of goals in the Raiders' opening-round win at the Cascade Conference Tournament on Tuesday. (PHOTO BY: Al Case / Ashland Daily Photo)