An aggressive start and swarming defense in the first half was the recipe for McNary boys soccer in Saturday’s 2-0 win in the first round of the OSAA playoffs.
The Celtics hosted the North Medford Black Tornado, and never let the Tornado get moving to start the match. They dominated possession in the first half, barely allowing North Medford across midfield. North Medford appeared to be in the attacking zone for less than five of the opening 40 minutes.
It was all by design for the Celts. They were coming off a big 5-2 win against South Salem to secure the Central Valley Conference championship on Oct. 24 while North Medford was coming off a 300-mile bus ride.
“We knew that they had to drive four hours and we had to keep the momentum up from the last game,” head coach Miguel Camarena said. “We planned that and definitely we did the right job out there.”
The game plan was executed nearly flawlessly in the first half by the Celts. They kept possession for most of the opening 10 minutes before North Medford was able to sustain any sort of possession across midfield.
McNary led 1-0 at halftime, outshooting North Medford 3-1. The lone goal of the first half came a little more than midway through the period when sophomore Israel Corta cleaned up a deflection off a corner kick. Senior Misael Rios sent a header towards the net that the North Medford keeper was able to punch up but not clear. Corta came across to finish the opportunity and put the Celts up 1-0.
“We told the guys that if it’s a header inside the six, it has to be rebounded. It’s going to be a ball and the guys they have to be ready with that,” Camarena said.
The Celts added to their lead in the second half with a goal from Rios just seconds after a yellow card on North Medford near midfield.
Rios and the Celts took advantage of the opportunity, getting him a clean look out in front of the goal.
“I think this game is that way. The momentum change and the possession and we took advantage of the opportunity and Misael scored a beautiful goal over there,” Camarena said.
North Medford’s attack in the second half was more aggressive than in the first, enabling the Black Tornado to get three shots on goal in the half. In the final 10 minutes, the attack really picked up.
Camarena has utilized a rotation at goalkeeper this season. In the second half, Alex Stephen was in goal for the Celts, and he came away with two huge diving saves in the closing minutes of the match.
“He saved us with those two goals and we continue working because I think we have a great group of guys that can be in goal anytime,” Camarena said.