The Sky-Em season is getting off to a particularly successful start for many of the fall Cottage Grove sports teams.
In their first league clash of the year last Tuesday, Sept. 24 the Cottage Grove girls soccer team defeated the Marshfield Pirates handily at Don King Field by a final score of 4-0.
Coming off of back-to-back close losses to Astoria and Phoenix, the Lions (4-4 overall, 2-0 league) bounced back and took care of business against a Marshfield team that has managed only one victory thus far this season (1-6-1, 1-1).
Continuing a trend from other recent games, the team seemed to play with a touch of anxiety out of the gate, unsure of their next move when finding themselves with the ball in space. However, the girls relaxed after junior forward Sawyer Weybright tidily placed a ball in the bottom left corner of goal in the 24th minute of the first half.
The second goal would come only a minute later when junior midfielder Chanel Leach scored again, allowing the Lions to take a 2-0 lead into halftime.
While the players themselves celebrated the league-opening win, head coach Reed Levings sees several areas for improvement as the team heads into the meat of the league season, with upcoming games against Junction City and Marist Catholic.
“The ball wasn’t on our defensive half that much and when it was we didn’t make the greatest plays on the ball,” said Levings.
“Once again, it’s passing. We’re forcing it either out of bounds or into their forwards and it’s, like, ‘no, you need to move, find your teammates.’”
Indeed, there were a number of missed opportunities - particularly in the second half - to make the 4-0 final score even more lopsided. Levings believes communication and more confidence in decision-making can combine to make this team a real threat throughout league play.
“We talked about there being a difference between talking and communicating, where talking is just noise, but actually communicating with your teammates where you’re at, what they need to do. Do you have pressure? Can you hold the ball? Do you need to dribble in space? Am I open out wide? Just being more descriptive with your communication.”
The team headed to Elmira (0-3-3, 0-1) for their second game of the week on Thurs., Sept. 26, dominating the match and winning 6-0 for their second consecutive league victory.
Cottage Grove will next match up with Junction City (0-8, 0-2) in a home match on Thurs., Oct. 3 before making the trip up to Eugene on Tues., Oct. 8 to take on rivals and league favorites Marist.
Boys soccer makes it a sweep of the Pirates
Not to be outdone by the girls, the Cottage Grove boys soccer team made the trip to Coos Bay to take on a Marshfield team riding a two-game winning streak.
After going down 0-1 early in the second half, the Lions (5-2 overall, 2-0 league) found their resolve, scoring three quick goals to defeat the Pirates (5-2, 1-1) by a score of 3-1 and secure their fourth consecutive victory, their scoreless 0-2 start to the season now decidedly in the rearview mirror.
“That’s just our signature this year. It takes us a half to get going,” said head coach Vern Stewart, laughing.
“Fortunately, we don’t get too far behind. We still play pretty good defense, so we don’t often get behind and have this huge hill to climb. But we were behind in this one, we were down 1-0, and we could’ve just packed it in and gone home with a loss, but our guys are really finding the will to fight.”
And fight they did in the second half. After subbing in for starter Evan Snauer, junior forward Shambay Gabriel Tripp got the Lions on the board in the 61st minute off of a throw-in, finding the loose ball in the box and finishing.
According to coach Stewart, the team had spent the last week practicing their set pieces, practice that paid off in a big way with not only Tripp’s goal, but another just 10 minutes later when sophomore Jayden Cameron sent a corner kick into the box which was headed in by freshman phenom Aldo Rea.
“Nobody could have stopped that, not even a six-foot-plus defender,” said Stewart about Rea’s go-ahead goal, his fifth in the last three games for the Lions.
The final goal was scored by Cameron, a long strike that went through the hands of the Pirates’ freshman goalie, Daniel Garcia, and gave Cottage Grove the insurance they needed to breathe easy over the closing minutes of the game.
The Pirates came in as a top-10 ranked team in OSAA 4A soccer with wins over Astoria, North Bend and, most notably, a 5-1 drubbing of a Tillamook team that beat the Lions 4-0 in their first game of the season. The Lions seem to have come a long way since that opening match and Stewart sees the makings of a truly competitive team coming together.
“I wouldn’t say we have any superstar on our team, you know, we have some players that are doing the job in the positions that they’re assigned, but I think from the defensive side to working it through the middle, as long as we’re all relaxed and our passes are on target and our movement is the way it should be, we’re pretty well-rounded.
“I’m looking forward to the rest of the season. I think it’s going to be one of those, ‘oh, I didn’t realize we were that good’ kind of thing,” said Stewart.