How much are points worth fighting for? That’s the question the Emerald Ridge High boys soccer team must be asking itself heading into the final games of the season.
It’s crunch time like no other for a Jaguar squad trying to capture fourth place as well as the final seed out of the SPSL South heading into subdistrict tournament play. There’s no time left for Emerald Ridge (4-8-1, 3-6 league) to be dropping points.
So Friday’s 1-0 loss to Rogers was a tough pill to swallow, as it brought Emerald Ridge a half game back of Spanaway Lake (5-6-1, 3-6).
"These guys know that if we want to get to the playoffs, we can’t be dropping points these last three games," Emerald Ridge coach Steve Aguilar said. "Especially against Spanaway Lake and Bethel."
After losing 2-0 to the Sentinels on April 7 at home, Thursday’s game at Art Crate Field against Spanaway Lake will be a pivotal matchup. If the Jaguars play together, then a win can be secured.
"Lately we’ve been working more on the technical side of things … I think it’s working out for the best," midfielder Jason Schmidt said. "We getting an organized attack up the field, but at this point it’s finishing the chances we get."
A win there will give the Jaguars a chance to secure fourth place when they face last place Bethel (1-8-1, 1-7) before closing out against first-place Puyallup (9-0-2, 8-0).
"A win at Spanaway Lake will go a long way in locking down that last spot," Aguilar said. "But to do that, the team needs to play together for an entire game — not just 15 minutes here or there, the entire game"
"Playing together is the only way to get to the playoffs."
The players feel the urgency too heading into this week. After a disappointing loss to Rogers, there’s still hope as the Emerald Ridge defense has picked up its play in recent games.
Particularly goalkeeper Austin Bauer.
After securing a shutout in a 2-0 win over Graham-Kapowsin on April 21, Bauer looked to do the same against the Rams.
"I’m always just relaxed," said Bauer about his mentality during games. "People always say practice like you play — I try to play like I practice. I’m just trying to enjoy it and have fun. I usually play my best when I have fun."
Time and again, Bauer would charge at and nail a slide tackle on one of Rogers’ players breaking toward the goal. If a corner kick was given up, there was no worry on the seniors face as he calmly directed his defense on the set pieces.
"He’s been incredible this year with set pieces," Aguilar said. "No matter how many set pieces we give up, he’s always calm. (Bauer) keeps us in games."
It’s not the defense that has to concern Emerald Ridge as it has surrendered a respectable 17 goals by opponents in 13 games.
No, it’s the offense, which has only produced 11 goals all year.
"Sometimes we have to get everyone to understand it’s not about going to same guy, down the field," Austin McLellan said. "You can pass it off five yards away and then work it down the field."
If the Jaguars want to see playoff action, they’ll have to find a way to come together and finish those chances they’ve been creating.
Thursday and Saturday will test the Emerald Ridge boys soccer program. Do they have it in them secure a spot in the playoffs?
"I think we can get there, yes," Bauer said. "We just have to come out here Monday and work harder than we’ve had all season."
Rams secure third
After Kyle Bosch found the back of the net for Rogers in the 51st minute, a great relief fell over the Rams after finally putting one past Bauer. Fortunately for Rogers, Parker Elliot was just as an equal force as his counterpart, picking up the shutout and helping his team to third place in the SPSL South.
“It’s big to get these points tonight ... that put us in a real good spot right now,” Rogers coach J.R. Farias said. “We just have to take care of what’s ahead first.”
Rogers played Spanaway Lake last week, and starting Thursday will close out the season against Bethel, Puyallup (May 2) and Curtis (May 5).