By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School boys varsity soccer team ran out of miracles in its first-round state playoff game Saturday, Nov. 1.
The Celtics hosted South Medford in the game that ended in a 5-1 loss for McNary and an ouster from the playoff scene.
“We were in control, but after two mistakes in the back the momentum changed and, in the playoffs, it is really hard to comeback,” said Miguel Camarena, McNary head coach. “We lost concentration in key parts of the game.”
McNary fell behind 2-0 early on Panther goals in the 11th and 17th minutes. In the 35th minute, senior Mario Garcia fended off a small army of defenders as he traversed from midfield to the right corner and crossed the ball in front of the net. Sophomore Gustavo Villalvazo headed the ball into the goal and the Panther lead shrunk to 2-1.
Any respite earned in the play vanished two minutes later when the South Medford answered and made the score 3-1. The Panthers scored twice more in the second half for the 5-1 final.
If there was any one factor that contributed most to the loss, it was nothing the Celts could do much about. At nearly every turn, the Panthers had a player with a stride six inches longer or a head taller that created situations where controlling every ball was a war the Celts had to win before making headway on offense.
“Our team’s effort was there, but between South Medford’s goalkeeper and the crossbar, we could only get one goal and that wasn’t enough,” Camarena said.
While the loss was a sour note to end a magical season on, the Celtics have much to celebrate as they move forward.
“They should be proud of the capacity, mental strength, character and winning mentallity the team showed in every practice and games,” Camarena said. “They adjusted to injuries, ineligible players, inexperience and comebacks. The work ethic that went into that, to become a family, showed from the preseason to winning the Greater Valley Conference in its first year.”
As for the way forward, Camarena said he’s already working with returning athletes on plans to put on some muscle, gain some strength and hone their speed. The Celts will also be putting in time with club teams in the offseason.
All in all, Camarena sees a bright future on the horizon. Even though many on the team viewed some of their wins and big moments as miracles, it was a team effort from beginning to end.
“To my seniors, I thank them for the commitment, discipline, leadership and dedication to our soccer program. The young boys won’t be young any more after this year, they will step in on the roles of some of these seniors. They all had grow tremendously. We set the bar high this year, so we need to aim there every season,” Camarena said.