The Eastern Oregon men’s soccer team had an opportunity to clinch its first Cascade Collegiate Conference playoff berth by taking care of its own business and getting some help.
Check both boxes for the Mountaineers.
EOU picked up a weekend sweep at Community Stadium that included one of the biggest wins in program history, a 2-1 victory over No. 10 Corban, Friday night behind two Carlos Solorio goals and nine saves from goalkeeper Aidan Wright.
“We came out with a new strategy on how to play this team,” Solorio said. “We watched film on them. Coaches studied them really hard. We believed the way we played tonight was the way we were going to beat them. It showed the strategy worked.”
That win, coupled with several other outcomes across the CCC, means EOU is guaranteed a berth in the postseason tournament which begins Nov. 7.
“They earned it and deserve all the recognition for their hard work,” EOU Head Coach Zach Mills said of the playoff berth. “I’m glad it’s not over, and I am excited to see what these guys bring to the postseason.
Eastern currently is in the fourth seed in the conference with one week to go.
“It’s a big moment in history for us,” Wright said. “We’ve worked hard all year. We played some good games but this might be the best one yet. Working hard gives you positive things. You get what you give.”
It also proved a reality that Head Coach Zach Mills has believed all season — that EOU has the capability to contend with the conference’s upper echelon.
“Anything can happen and we can run with them. We showed it tonight,” the first-year coach said. “Corban’s a great team. Not taking anything away from the no. 10 team in the nation, but we knew if we played to our potential, played as we should, listened to each other, did the little things right, we could hang. We ended up taking the game tonight. It's been a blessing seeing these guys grow.”
One of those players Mills said has grown of late is Solorio. The junior college transfer put Eastern Oregon on the board in the 41st minute, then scored the winner in the 83rd minute after Corban’s Alex Segovia had scored the equalizer early in the second half.
“I would say Carlos a month ago wouldn’t have made those good runs, good passes and nice goals,” Mills said. “He’s matured so much over the last couple of weeks and grown. He’s been killing it.”
The coach also said his team showed it wasn’t going to back down from the Warriors.
“They respected Corban because they are a really good team, but they weren't scared of Corban, and that made me really happy to see.”
The positive outcome also due in large part to a solid night by Wright. The senior made a couple difficult leaping saves in the first half when the game was still scoreless, then withstood Corban’s attack in the second half.
“It’s always the same. I don’t care who we’re playing. I try to stay on my feet, wait until the last second and then react to what's coming at me,” Wright said.
Mills said Wright’s composure was what stood out Friday.
“Out of all the games, he’s always been good, (but) he was consistent tonight,” Mills said. “He was composed tonight, and that helped. Against a team like Corban you gotta bring it all.”
Solorio added that Wright “did his job.”
“Heck of a player. Heck of a man,” he said. “Before warmups he was concentrated, he was focused. He knew what had to be done. He knew he was the last line of defense.”
Mountaineers run streak to four with win over Beacons
Solorio and Jorge Chavez both scored goals in the first half and the Mountaineers ran their winning streak to four matches with a 2-1 win over Northwest Christian Sunday.
Chavez scored on a penalty kick in the seventh minute for an early lead, and Solorio scored off a pass from Chavez to make ti 2-0 in the 32nd minute. Alex Abalan scored for NCU just 33 seconds later, but EOU made the advantage hold up.
Wright recorded two saves in the win.
The Mountaineers (9-3-4 overall, 7-2-3 CCC) finish the regular season Sunday when they host Walla Walla.