ELMA — The conclusion to the Evergreen 1A boys soccer season was extended by one day, thanks to the weather and a spirited performance by Elma on Thursday night.
In the third installment of the East County Derby, the Eagles came out aggressive and fast to take Montesano out of its rhythm. Combined with some “home-field advantage,” Elma snapped a three-match losing streak with a 3-0 victory at Davis Field.
Elma (8-4, 9-6) locked in a share of the league title and the No. 2 seed in next week’s District IV 1A tournament. The Eagles will host a quarterfinal game Tuesday. Montesano (7-5, 7-7) could have won the league title, but dropped all the way to third place. The Bulldogs will host White Salmon in a district play-in game slated for 1 p.m. today at Rottle Field.
“We did some things in the complete opposite to what we did the last time we played Monte,” Elma head coach Carson Seaberg said. “We weren’t scoring in the flow of play (during the losing streak). We scored three goals in the flow of the game, not on set pieces. To me, that was pleasing.”
“Our game isn’t as physical and, with the conditions, it wasn’t great for passing the ball and maintaining possession; give (Elma) credit for that,” Montesano head coach Mike Malpass said. “They were more physical, more aggressive. We couldn’t match that. On a dry field, we could have fared better, but this is Washington.”
Elma didn’t want a repeat of the last match against Montesano, a 4-0 loss at Rottle Field, so it immediately took the match to the visitors. The Eagles had four goal-scoring chances in the first five minutes of the match, effectively pushing the Bulldogs onto their heels defensively.
The best early chances were headers that beat the goalkeepers, but hit the crossbars — from Elma’s Steve Persell and Monte’s David Sawyer.
The field conditions at Davis Field was wet, with some standing water in the middle of the field. The ball checked up on both teams, leading to some awkward passes throughout the match. The conditions also played a part in the first goal of the match.
In the 15th minute, Julian Hernandez got a great long pass from Edgar Hermenegildo that forced Monte goalkeeper Jeff Varness to come out and challenge for the ball. Just as Hernandez and Varness got to it, the water stopped the ball. Varness over-ran it as Hernandez got a touch onto it for control, leading to an empty net goal from 15 yards out.
Hernandez’s aggressiveness on the night served him well. The senior midfielder scored two of Elma’s three goals, including the clincher in the 74th minute.
“Julian played a good game; we played him in a different position that where he’s played all year,” Seaberg said. “He’s got good quality. He plays hard where ever he plays for us. We felt, with his movement along the back line, that his runs are dangerous and hard to mark. We thought he’d take advantage of that tonight.”
Elma’s aggressiveness dominated the flow of the match in the first half, but it only led to a 1-0 halftime lead. Hernandez, Persell, Hermenegildo and Cory Marsh each had threatening shots on-goal against Varness and the Bulldogs.
Montesano returned the favor with a spirited start to the second half, earning half-chances against Elma’s defense. Brandon Lovell, David Sawyer and Nolan Walker each had solid chances, but their shots all went wide.
The match turned in the 51st minute and left Montesano in search of a goalkeeper. A Hernandez deflected shot brought four players — including Varness — together in a collision that saw the Monte goalkeeper laying on the ground motionless. Elma’s Juan Perez got the rebound and fired a 20-yard shot into the unprotected goal for the 2-0 lead.
After talking with Malpass, Varness stayed in the match, but left minutes later. Midfielder Colby Whipple took over in goal for the rest of the match.
“He’s going to get checked out by the medical staff,” Malpass said. “Jeff is a tough lad. He was hurting. I tried to pull him off initially, but after watching him, you knew he had to come off.”
Elma’s defense — a five-man line that compensated for the loss of sophomore sweeper Donovan Bieker (concussion) — stymied and frustrated Montesano’s offensive runs for the remainder of the match. It did open up a few counter-attack chances, including the final goal of the match in the 74th minute.
Marsh took a run down the left side and fired an acute-angled shot at Whipple, who fumbled the ball. Hernandez was there to clean up the rebound for the marker.
Elma won the junior varsity match, 2-1. Christian Keller scored both goals for Elma.