By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
McNary showed it will not go down without a fight in its Greater Valley Conference opener, coming from behind to earn a 2-2 tie against West Salem on Tuesday, Sept. 19.
For nearly 60 minutes, the Celtics created opportunity after opportunity, firing shots off the post and the goalkeeper’s hands, but trailed 2-0.
The Titans scored their first goal on a header off a free kick in the opening three minutes. West Salem struck again in the 50th minute, using a cross to slip the ball past McNary goalkeeper Sebastian Lopez.
But the Celtics never stopped believing.
“I feel like the start of the game was just unlucky,” McNary sophomore Jack Baez said. “We had so many opportunities and we just kept our intensity high and never let up. That’s something we’ve been working on for a while is just not letting up and going after it. No matter how far you’re down, you can always come back. We just had that mentality. We knew we weren’t going to lose from the beginning of the game.”
With 20:49 remaining in the match, Baez finally got the Celtics on the scoreboard, slipping the ball past the keeper and into the left corner of the net.
“I didn’t even look at the goal,” Baez said. “I just hit it. I knew what corner I would put it into. I’m just so relieved that it went in. It was amazing and I think that brought up the whole team. It gave us confidence because we had so many opportunities and it just wouldn’t go right for us. I got that one and we knew we could do it. We knew we weren’t going to lose this game.”
Bhavdeep Bains then rocketed a shot in the 74th minute, which the goalie was able to keep in play but Jovanie Bravo finished to tie the game.
McNary fired another shot off the bar in the 77th minute before the final whistle blew.
The Celtics nearly scored at least two more goals in the first half. A free kick by freshman Jose Martinez went off the West Salem goalkeeper’s hands and then off the bar before going out of bounds in the 12th minute. The keeper then made two saves on a shot by senior Luis Martinez, the second by diving on the ball as it nearly rolled across the goal line in the 34th minute.
“Halftime, coach (Miguel Camarena) talked to us and got us back on our feet and once the opportunities started coming we were more ambitious,” Baez said. “We were taking more shots.”
McNary continued to control possession and create more opportunities in the second half. Jose Martinez had two goals overturned for being offsides.
“That’s been our problem for the past few games is just putting them in,” Baez said. “We’ve been working on that a lot, literally every practice. It’s just been netting them because we’ve been playing great and our finishing had not been there. Tonight, I feel like we could have finished a lot more but at least it’s a start.”
While the Celtics have scored just nine goals in its first six games, Baez hopes the strong finish against West Salem will carry over to the rest of the season.
“We’ll continue on this,” Baez said. “We’ll piggyback on this and start finishing more and winning games.”
Playing at West Salem, McNary’s girls soccer team also had to come from behind to earn a 1-1 tie.
The Lady Celts started strong and spent the majority of the first 10 minutes of the match on the West Salem end but failed to produce a dangerous opportunity.
About 15 minutes into the match the momentum shifted, and West Salem began to settle in and control the midfield.
In the 32nd minute McNary defender Ashlyn Lyda took a tough knee-to-knee hit in a 50/50 challenge that needed medical attention. West Salem then switched the field and ended up with a shot inside the penalty area that forced a save from goalkeeper Sydney Snapp.
Lyda’s replacement, junior Olivia Purkey, stepped in and helped finish out a scoreless half.
West Salem started the second half controlling possession, and settled for a number of shots from outside that were handled with ease by Snapp.
But pressure began to mount as the Titans forced a couple corner kicks around the 50th minute.
In the 54th minute, West Salem collected a ball inside the box on an attempted clearance, and put a shot on goal that deflected off McNary’s central defender on its way toward goal, forcing an initial diving save by Snapp that took a fortunate bounce off the post toward a charging Titan attacker who finished the second effort from close range to give West Salem a 1-0 lead.
In the 64th minute, senior captain Jessy Shore made a run up the left wing and put a cross toward the far post that skipped off the turf, and was finished by junior captain Abigail Hawley in the top right corner from close range.