Baker’s defensive strategy worked better against top-ranked Marist Catholic Wednesday night than pretty much any other opponent has managed against the Spartans’ boys soccer team.
But it still wasn’t good enough.
Baker battled throughout but the Spartans scored a single goal in each half to win the Class 4A playoff match in Eugene.
The loss ended Baker’s season.
“We actually played a really hard, good game,” Baker coach Victor Benites said. “We knew this team was going to be good. They’re the number one team and there’s a reason why.”
Given Marist’s dominance this season — the Spartans’ record going into Wednesday’s match was 12-0-1, and they had outscored opponents 69-5 in their 12 straight wins — Benites decided to swap one forward position for an extra defender.
He was pleased with the tactic.
“It was working fine,” Benites said. “They didn’t score until late in the first half.”
The Bulldogs defensive strategy wasn’t the only reason Marist’s powerful offense mostly fizzled on a chilly night under the lights in Eugene.
Baker goalkeeper Silas Carter turned back 25 shots.
“He did really well in goal for us,” Benites said.
Later in the second half the Bulldogs, with time running out on the match and their season, took a more aggressive approach on offense.
It paid off with several good scoring chances, but none found the Marist net.
Benites said the most frustrating shot was by Brylan Robb, who took a pass and almost beat the Spartans’ keeper.
Had that yielded a goal, Benites said, he believes it would have given Baker momentum and potentially led to a massive upset.
Nonetheless he was happy with Baker’s performance — particularly since the Bulldogs had driven about 400 miles and played just their second match of the season on an artificial turf pitch.
That surface, which results in a faster-paced game than on grass, helps Marist’s already strong passing skills, Benites said.
Because the ball rolls so much faster, and straighter, on turf, the Spartans moved the ball around quickly, adding to Baker’s challenge on defense.
The Bulldogs finished with a 6-6-2 record.