McNary forward Yasheth Arciniega Rivera controls possession of the ball in the second half of the Celtics' 2-1 win over Mountain View (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
Before the season began, the main goal of the McNary girls' soccer team was to qualify for the postseason, a feat they hadn't accomplished since 2017.
On Wednesday, Oct. 20, the Celtics got one step closer to making that goal a reality in their final home game of the year.
With the score tied 1-1 in the 62nd minute, junior forward Sydnee Alfano scored the go-ahead goal off the pass from Maya Alston to give the Celtics the 2-1 victory against Mountain View.
“We were under a lot of pressure and we knew what we needed to do. We knew we had to win,” Alfano said.
After winning six consecutive games to conclude their non-league slate, McNary began Mountain Valley Conference (MVC) play with five straight losses. However, the victory over Mountain View lifted McNary's record over .500 (7-6), greatly boosting their chances to nab a wild card playoff spot.
“We needed to remind ourselves of who we are and prove that we belong in the playoffs,” McNary head coach Lauren Brouse said. “It was a huge win. It's huge for the players and the program in general.”
After McNary couldn't convert on their first six shots-on-goal in the opening 20 minutes, Mountain View was able to take advantage of a defensive lapse by the Celtics when forward Alicia Welker moved the ball past the back line to get an uncontested shot by McNary goalkeeper Hannah Ferguson, putting the Cougars up 1-0.
The Celtics had a number of other chances at a goal in the final 20 minutes of the half, but a number of outstanding saves from Mountain View keeper Rylee Todd kept the deficit at 1-0.
“Their keeper made some amazing saves. We weren't placing the ball well enough, but (Todd) had a great night,” Brouse said.
However, in the opening minute of the second half, McNary capitalized on a golden opportunity.
After a McNary throw-in deep in Mountain View territory, Celtics forward Yasheth Arciniega Rivera was fouled in the box trying to corral the pass, leading to a penalty kick.
McNary captain Isabelle Gatchet was selected to take the penalty kick, and in the final home game of her career, the senior defender buried a ball in the back of the net past Todd to tie the game at 1-1.
Following the tying goal, the Celtics began to play with more confidence.
“I think it helped them kind of calm down. We knew if we could just tie the game, we liked our chances because we were getting a lot of shots on goal. It helped us pick up our intensity,” Brouse said.
Once the momentum began to swing to McNary's side, Mountain View had a difficult time regaining possession of the ball as the Cougars went through a 30-minute stretch without a shot-on-goal.
“The girls were holding on to the ball for too long in the first half. Once we started moving the ball better, it made us far more dangerous,” Brouse said.
Earlier in the game, Alfano missed out on a number of opportunities to put the Celtics on the board. But when she got another great look at a goal in the 62nd minute, she wasn't going to let the opportunity slip away.
Alston received a perfect through ball from Peyton Olafson while sprinting up the sideline, then crossed the ball over to Alfano, who played it off the short hop and fired a missile into the top of the goal for the score, giving the Celtics their first lead.
“Sydnee was due. She was bound to get one,” Brouse said. “It was such a beautiful goal.”
“I knew I couldn't take two touches because I would lose the opportunity, so I just tried to get in front of it and shoot,” Alfano added. “It felt amazing to score because she had been making amazing saves. It just felt like we won the game right there.”
While McNary looked to have the game in hand, disaster nearly struck for the Celtics in the final two minutes.
Mountain View forward Sydney Floyd attempted a deep desperation shot that ended up being a slow roller directed at the goal. Ferguson was in perfect position to make the stop, but somehow, the ball slipped between her legs.
Brouse was talking with an assistant coach during the play, so she didn't initially see the ball go underneath Ferguson's legs.
“I didn't see it, at first, which was good because I probably would have had a mini heart attack,” Brouse said. “Everyone started freaking out.”
Fortunately for the Celtics, Ferguson recovered to make the stop just before the ball crossed the goal line. McNary was able to run the final 90 seconds off the clock to secure the victory.
McNary looks to end the regular season strong as they travel to West Salem for a 7 p.m. game on Friday, Oct. 22. Regardless of their potential opponent in the postseason, Brouse hopes that her team doesn't get away from their identity.
“I don't want these girls to overthink it, I want them to focus on themselves and play their game, because when they do that they are so much fun to watch,” Brouse said. “I want them to prove that they are a team people should be scared of.”
The OSAA girls' soccer playoff bracket will be posted on Wednesday, Oct. 27 at 9 a.m.
Matt Rawlings: [email protected]