Half the brackets are set, lets dive deep into the wonderful outlook of the soccer state playoffs opening round! 4A has their play-in bracket, with the winner advancing to the main bracket with the top eight seeds, while 6A begins their mammoth 32 team mess. Its lots to explore and talk about, so lets get it started!
4A Play-In Bracket
There is no real seeding in this portion of the bracket, as the conference teams with automatic bids host games against the at-large bids regardless of rank. The winners then advance to the main 16 team bracket that starts next week. Let’s look at a game by game breakdown of what lies ahead in this opening round:
Elmira at Sisters: The Outlaws are having their best season in a long time, finding themselves hosting the Falcons to kick things off. Their defense is a strong point, as Sisters hasn’t allowed more than two goals in a game all season aside from a match against 6A JV team Caldera to start the season. They have proven to hang around with the best and even beat them at times. Their offense understandably slows down against strong teams, but they break open against poor defensive teams. Elmira has had poor showings in every game against a tough opponent, setting this one up to be a beating for the Falcons, especially with Sisters playing in their friendly confines at home. Take the Outlaws without question.
McLoughlin at Mazama: Playing outside of conference was a challenge for the Vikings, as finding opponents to play proved to be underwhelming. This muddies the picture a bit entering their match with McLoughlin, a team that went 6-1 outside their conference but hit a brick wall in league play. Putting up great showings against Hidden Valley and Henley gives Mazama much to be confident about, even if their offense doesn’t score a whole lot. This one won’t likely be a high scoring affair, but I like Mazama over McLoughlin by at least two goals in this one.
Cascade at Henley: When you only lose to teams that are stronger than you, with the exception of a split with Mazama, then that’s much to be happy with. Henley’s four losses were all one goal games against St. Mary’s Medford, Hidden Valley, and Mazama, that’s it! Playing against weaker competition isn’t a challenge either, with the Hornets winning most of those comfortably. As for Cascade, they struggle at adapting on the road to opponents and their territory, but can suffocate you on their own field. This one is at Henley, so I take the odds with the Hornets coming out on top against the Cougars.
Stayton at Corbett: The Cardinals have surprised a lot of people this season, finding themselves in the mix with some 4A powers before kind of fizzing out near the end of the year. With a win over North Marion and a close second game with Gladstone, Corbett is battle tested and ready for the playoffs. As for Stayton, they’ve had limited success against teams not named Sweet Home, Newport, or Cascade this season. Unable to come away 2-0 against any of those teams, the Eagles aren’t likely to be successful on a road trip to the tested Corbett Cardinals. Take Corbett, you won’t regret it.
Newport/Eddyville Charter at Ontario: Welcome to the playoffs for the first time Newport! Kinda like a West Coast team travelling to play on the East Coast, that “bus lag” from Newport to Ontario is likely to play a factor before you even factor in a time change too. Ontario went winless in non-conference and beat up on the two weaker conference teams to get to their status, while Newport had to conquer the rigorous Oregon West Conference. The problem with this game is that neither team has much to show in terms of quality play against quality opponents, so its difficult to gauge how good either one is. I think this is a toss-up, with the edge going to Ontario with the travel and time zone advantages. Newport can win, but Ontario has better odds.
Molalla at Astoria: Two more balanced teams face off, this time over on the Oregon Coast. Molalla got stuck with a bolstered conference this season, which seriously impacted their overall record and state status. They showed the ability to put up big numbers against weaker opponents and even competed with Corbett, while Astoria was kind of all over the map on consistency in a weak conference. Aside from beating up on Rainer/Clatskanie, they couldn’t beat Banks/Vernonia in either try while splitting with Seaside and Tillamook. These teams are pretty even, but I like the kids from a small, rural town to come up to the Coast and get the dub.
Estacada at Seaside: The Rangers get stuck with Seaside, a team that competed against conference power Valley Catholic and didn’t really have a bad loss this season. Their defense is firm and scoring just enough to get dubs, going against an Estacada team that couldn’t keep up with Gladstone, but played quality against North Marion and Corbett. The Rangers have a decent defense, but their offense isn’t reliable from game to game, which is a problem against a good defensive team in Seaside. This one might go to PK’s, but I like Seaside in a 2-0 or 2-1 game.
North Valley at Junction City: North Valley was gifted some mercy for their long road trip, heading up to Junction City for a Friday afternoon matchup. The Knights are a dark horse disruptor in the 4A field, fielding a strong defense that put up fights with Mazama, Hidden Valley. and Henley. They feed their offense off of weaker defenses, which brings us to Junction City, who destroyed their league outside of being destroyed by Marist. They have a great offense against weaker opponents, but North Valley is a great defense who fights against the best of the state. I see a shutout coming in JC, but it’ll be the Knights defending the castle away from home, moving on to put up some battles in the main bracket.
Pick: North Valley
6A First Round
Time to tackle the mammoth bracket, a 32 team shootout that ends at Hillsboro Stadium in a couple weeks. Plenty of teams available to win the title, so lets look at the first round.
Central Catholic at Jesuit: The Holy War kicks us off, a battle between fierce rivals to start the playoffs. However, this one won’t be a real battle. Jesuit lost, but they aren’t down for the count by any means. There isn’t much to really review here, its more about whether Jesuit hits mercy rule or plays the whole match against the Rams. Central Catholic does have a good defense, but it won’t be enough to stop Jesuit from eventually breaking the game open with their offensive firepower.
West Salem at Forest Grove: If there was a game to go to PK’s, it’d be this one. Two teams that play strong against the best on their schedule, its a shame that one has to lose this game. Both of these teams field great defenses, offenses that do just enough, and are consistent across the board. The Vikings struggled in their last two against Newberg and a loss to McMinnville, but their track record speaks for itself. West Salem fought Bend and only allowed three goals total in league play. This one can fall either direction, so its a bit too close to call on this game. Since I’m forced to pick, I’m going with the Lady Titans from West Salem!
Pick: West Salem
Liberty at Lincoln: Watch out for the Cardinals, this team is dangerous. Allowing only 14 goals total, they fought Jesuit, Grant, Lake Oswego, and Oregon City HARD. Their 10-4-1 record speaks for itself. Liberty just got walloped by Sherwood, who found some offensive gunpowder and opened fire on the Falcons 6-0. Alana Harry is going to love this pairing, and Lincoln is going to put up some netters in this one. All Cardinals in this game.
Southridge at Sherwood: Speaking of Sherwood, the Bowmen host Southridge to open their playoff journey. Their rigorous non-conference journey adequately prepared them for the Pacific Conference, getting their offensive firepower finally going and pitching four consecutive shutouts heading into Saturday. Had the playoffs started last week, I would’ve put this game as an upset potential, but not anymore. Southridge drew with Beaverton and beat Westview, but couldn’t beat Aloha to close the season. Their defense is good, but can they put the ball in the net? The results say no, which will doom them against an on-fire Sherwood team who torched Liberty for six goals on Monday. Southridge will put up a fight, but Sherwood will advance.
Centennial at Beaverton: The team that controlled Jesuit is long gone, as the Beavers currently ride a two game losing streak headed into the playoffs. However, despite that, Beaverton has the opportunity to find that spark and chemistry again in the opening round. Centennial has had flashes of potential throughout the season, but nothing consistent enough to indicate they’ll take down the Beavers on the road. Beaverton just needs to find their rhythm and it’ll all be good in Beaver Nation. It might be a close one, but Beaverton still takes the dub.
McMinnville at Summit: This one is kind of a tricky one to decipher. On the one hand, you have Summit, who can compete with 6A’s best on any night but hasn’t found much offense down the stretch. On the other, McMinnville upset Forest Grove and has fought in every test this season without significant failure or score gap. This one will be a tight one, possibly coming down to PK’s if need be, so this one is another toss up game. In this situation, I default to the home field advantage, especially with the other driving 3+ hours to get to Bend.
Lakeridge at Sprague: One side has an All-American nominee on offense, the other one has an All-American nominee at goalie. Its a shame that someone has to lose this one too, but I like the Pacers on the road in this game. Lakeridge almost beat Jesuit, has a studded defense that doesn’t mess up much, and one of the best GK’s in Oregon. Sprague’s offensive gun we saw early fizzed out, but it has gotten new ammunition as of late. This one is defense vs offense, and I love Lakeridge’s defense against a hit and miss offense at Sprague. HOWEVER, Lakeridge did get hit hard by a strong Lake Oswego offense 4-0 and had their best results against low scoring offenses. Sprague isn’t one of those teams, so its Oly Nation in this one, but don’t be stunned if Lakeridge does pull an upset.
Sheldon at Bend: A streaky offense against a consistent defense, smells like an upset alert on the horizon. Sheldon’s defense has been good in conference….except against South Medford and South Eugene exempt that final meeting. That spells bad news against a loaded Bend offense, one that drilled McNary and McKay for 13 goals but could only put up one against Mountain View…a team that McNary put two up on. This one could be an upset, but my gut tells me Bend as the winner. Watch this one, it could surprise some people.
McNary at Grant: Ok, we’re back to the easy picks to make. McNary eked their way into the playoffs, just to get paired up with a high powered Grant offense in the first round. Elle Frazier is going to have a day against the Celtic defense, and the Generals will cruise to victory at home. Welcome back to the playoffs McNary, I apologize for your bad luck in the draws….
South Eugene at West Linn: So is West Linn a top team or not? It looked like it for awhile, but it has since been proven otherwise, primarily through lack of offensive production. Sherwood has figured it out, but West Linn hasn’t, and they welcome South Eugene to town. The Axe have a better offense and a pretty solid defense, so this one will be a close one. I’ll take the Axe taming the Lady Lions in West Linn, but it won’t be by much.
Upset: South Eugene
South Salem at Mountainside: Another game that could be upset potential, the Lady Saxons knocked off Bend but then got handled by Sprague in the next game. Mountainside has beaten Beaverton, but couldn’t take Sunset or Westview. The Mavericks aren’t as good as previous years, but the Lady Saxons inconsistency will be the tiebreaker to their potential to pull an upset on the road. I’ve got Mountainside, but watch out for South Salem, they are no joke.
Barlow at Oregon City: In any other season, Barlow would be a 6A contender to watch for. However, the Lady Bruins aren’t that team this season, and they have to play a strong Oregon City team that has won five in a row. The Pioneers are a great defensive team, and the offense has found its identity in recent weeks. OC will shut down the Lady Bruins at home, although they might only score once or twice at most as Barlow has a good defense, but I’ve got OC easily.
Pick: Oregon City
Westview at Tualatin: How many upset potentials are there? Well here is another one. Westview played a brutal non-conference and then struggled in conference, but pulled an upset of Mountainside in the process. This team won’t put up a bunch of goals on you, but their defense might be enough to shut out Tualatin, who have had an offensive Achilles all season long. Their defense is an elite one, but their offense is average, hence the 10 seed and upset potential. I still like Tualatin, but Westview might pull it off if they can squeak one by the Timberwolves. Tualatin by like a goal….MAYBE two.
Cleveland at Lake Oswego: High power machine gun offense and good defense against average in both categories: Its a welcome back for the Warriors in the form of playing the Lake Show from Lake Oswego. The Lady Lakers are a fantastic offensive team and their defense will get the job done, don’t be stunned to see mercy rule at the half for the Lady Lakers in this one, its ALL Lake Oswego.
Pick: Lake Oswego
South Medford at Wells: The final game of the first round finishes in Portland, where the Wells Guardians host a South Medford team that almost never gets shutout. Wells has a good defense, but the offense sputters or has to play catch up in a lot of games. The Panthers will certainly score in this game, so can the Guardians offense keep up or lose the battle? I’m taking South Medford in Portland, the gut feels great about this one.
Pick: South Medford