Rochester boys soccer trailed for the first 25 minutes, but once the Warriors found the back of the net it was off to the races as they fended off Centralia for a 4-1 victory in 2A Evergreen Conference action Tuesday at Tiger Stadium in Centralia.
The lone high school sporting event in Lewis County Tuesday that wasn’t canceled or postponed due to weather, the Tigers struck first with Kilmer Alverto-Gabarrette knocking in a header in just the third minute to put Centralia on top 1-0.
“We scored a goal in the first few minutes, which is something we rarely do,” Centralia coach Henry Gallanger said. “That’s a long time to hold a lead, and it’s a position we’re not used to being in; sustaining a lead for 80 minutes. And we were not able to sustain it.”
Centralia kept Rochester at bay for the next 22 minutes, but the Tigers soon fell into their familiar slump of being unable to carry that momentum the entire way. The Warriors connected on the equalizer when Erik Vasquez-Valentine notched it up at 1-1 from an assist by Gabe Stuard in the 25th minute.
“As a coach, I was worried we gave up a goal so quickly, but the boys just never give up,” Rochester coach Matt Ashton said. “They play a full, 80-minute game. The last few games, they’ve started to come around and put the ball in the net."
Rochester’s Levi Jennings, a cross country standout, put the Warriors ahead for good when he punched in the go-ahead goal in the 32nd minute off an assist by Inigo Simon-Palmeiro to put the Warriors up 2-1 at the half.
Vasquez-Valentine notched his brace in the 50th minute off an assist from Jennings to make it 3-1. Reigning EvCo Offensive MVP Alexis Castillo-Corona finished off the scoring with a goal in the 69th minute from an assist by Vasquez-Valentine to make it 4-1.
The Warriors (4-7, 2-4 EvCo) have now won two in a row after starting the season 2-7, and Ashton attributes the turnaround to the never-give-up mentality of the team.
“We’ve got things clicking the way we should have been,” Ashton said. “We’ve been able to maintain possession of the ball and control the tempo the majority of the past few games — and not to take away anything from our opponents. That’s the big change for us right now.”
Ashton commended the play of each of his goal scorers, as well as the defensive line and central defensive-mid players Jennings and Stuard.
“Both had great games,” Ashton said.
Centralia (4-7, 2-4 EvCo), meanwhile, saw its two-game winning streak come to an end. Gallanger said the team is still struggling to stem fouls on the attacking third-side of the field.
“Set pieces continue to be a challenge for us,” Gallanager said. “We saw some improvement but still gave up two goals from set pieces. We’ve got to work to reduce the amount of fouls in dangerous places.”
Tuesday was the first goal the Tigers allowed on a corner kick since their preseason jamboree with Toledo-Winlock United. But the Tigers still have cleaning up to do if they want to compete for a postseason berth, Gallanger said.
Centralia next heads to King’s Way Christian for a non-league match on Friday.
“They’re good,” Gallanger said. “They’re one of the top teams in the southern 1As. (Our) team needs to learn that the intensity level can’t drop.”
Rochester next hosts Black Hills in a 2A Evergreen Conference clash at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.