McNary forward Elio Carella (21) battles for possession on the ball in the Celtics 1-0 upset victory over Summit for their first win in Mountain Valley Conference play (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
After losing a heartbreaker to West Salem in their league opener, the McNary boys soccer team knew they had little room for error if they wanted to contend for a Mountain Valley Conference title.
But in their following contest, the Celtics played arguably their best game of the season against fourth-ranked Summit.
Luis Lopez’s early first half goal was all McNary needed as their back line kept one of the state’s best offenses out of the net for 80 minutes, allowing the Celtics to defeat Summit 1-0 on Friday, Oct. 4.
“It just means that we’re back in the race for a league championship. It was really important for us to come out and win this game. We have just been really dedicated to the process and the hard work showed off today,” Lopez said. “They are definitely a great team, but we locked down on defense after I got that goal.”
McNary head coach Miguel Camarena added: “The guys played very disciplined against a high-caliber team. I’m really proud of the boys.”
The Celtics have struggled for most of the year with taking advantage of early scoring chances. This time around, it was a different story.
In the fifth minute, McNary forward Edgar Salazar sent a beautiful through ball to Lopez, who streaked past the Summit defense and had a one-on-one opportunity with goalkeeper, Khael Engleman.
“It was a great ball from Edgar and I just knew that I could take (Engleman) on. He was starting to close me off and I knew if I didn’t shoot right then that I wasn’t going to get a clean shot,” Lopez said.
The senior forward took advantage of Engleman’s overaggressiveness and sent a missile into the top right corner of the goal to give McNary the early lead.
Lopez had another opportunity moments later, but his long range shot bounced off the artificial turf and over the post.
In the final 10 minutes of the first half, Summit had a pair of chances to tie the game up. But they were turned away by McNary’s veteran goalie Alejandro Villarreal.
After Celtics midfielder Noah Gatchet committed a foul just outside of the box, Summit’s Jace Marshall was awarded a free kick from close distance. But Villarreal read the shot perfectly and made his save look easy.
Villarreal would make a diving stop later in the half allow his team to maintain the lead at the half.
“He played incredibly well and had some huge saves in the back. To me, he’s the best goalkeeper in the conference and probably a top five keeper in the state,” Camarena said. “He’s very experienced, he’s calm and has great skills. He did excellent leading the team.”
Villarreal and his back line remained in-sync for the remainder of the game, minimizing Summit’s shots-on-goal and successfully protecting the McNary lead.
“Summit is a really good team and they have a good attack. The most important thing to do to stop them is communicate with your defenders. The organization keeps everyone where they need to be at the right time,” Villarreal said. “As a part of the goalkeeping aspect, it’s just about staying on your toes and being ready for everything.”
The Storm’s last chance to score came in the final two minutes when Marshall got the angle on a McNary defender and sent a left-footed kick towards the net. Villarreal was able to dive and knock the ball away, but Summit’s Kamdon Simmons controlled the deflection and quickly fired a shot at the empty goal before Villarreal could recover and get back into position. The shot, however, was rushed and sailed high over the post.
The Celtics played keep-away in the final 90 seconds to preserve the upset victory.
McNary will try to play at that same high-level when they return to the field on Friday, Oct. 18 when they travel to take on Sprague at 4 p.m.
“The key is discipline. We can’t have an amazing game like this and then start to get cocky. We have to come in with that same mentality and that same hunger that we played with today,” Lopez said.