Mount Shasta rides defense into Saturday's soccer championship match
With one scoring shot and a typically terrific defensive performance, the Mount Shasta High School soccer team defeated a nemesis Thursday afternoon and advanced to Saturday's Northern Section championship match.
The host Bears' 1-0 semifinal victory over Redding Christian avenged the only loss on Mount Shasta's 2013 record, as well as an upset loss in last year's playoff opener – both in PKs.
Sophomore Jarrod Althaus-Cressman scored Thursday's only goal on a first half shot that skidded into the far corner of the net.
The No. 1 seeded Bears (19-1-1), winners of this year's Shasta Cascade League championship, are scheduled to host No. 2 Tulelake in Saturday's Fall Soccer championship match at Shastice Park. It is scheduled to start at noon.
Tulelake defeated No. 3 Paradise Adventist in Thursday's other semifinal, also by a 1-0 score.
"That's what good soccer is supposed to be like: good passing and good defense," Mount Shasta head coach Bradly Robinson said after the Bears' win. "One-nothing games; that makes it fun." He called Redding Christian "a great opponent. It was hard fought."
Mount Shasta goalkeeper Morgan Owens was credited with 5 saves. Robinson said a first half save when Owens dove on the ground to grab a loose ball in front of the net "turned the game around."
That was shortly before Althaus-Cressman fielded a ball that went high in the air over sophomore Lauren Frost and bounced to him. He controlled it off his thigh, dribbled toward the net and shot.
"When I hit it I didn't think it was going in," said Althaus-Cressman, who referred to the Bears' competition with Redding Christian as "a huge rivalry."
As they've done most of the season, the Bears' speedy midfielders and back line defenders allowed few shots to get near the net.
Robinson called the victory "a total team effort. It starts in the back and moves forward." He said every team the Bears have played this season has guys who "can score, but we have more speed, and our defense plays awesome."
The numbers back that claim: Mount Shasta has only been scored on in 5 of its 21 matches and has only allowed 7 goals all season.
The Bears had several good scoring opportunities in the second half, one by Althaus-Cressman that was stopped with a full out dive by Redding Christian's goalie; another by Carlos Lopez that was deflected away at the last moment.
Weston Stroud, one of several seniors who have played together four years as Bears, said those bonds benefit the team. "A lot of us are close friends; it's all mental connections," said the midfielder/striker.
Last year's Shasta Cascade League most valuable player, Stroud also pointed to the tradition of high school soccer success in Mount Shasta. This year's team won the school's seventh league title in the past eight years.
"When we were freshmen, the seniors were super good," said Stroud.
Senior midfielder/striker Carlos Lopez agreed: "Everybody is connected," he said. "There's love on the team; nobody dislikes one another."
Lopez said Bears' forwards love to shoot, but "we all play defense; that's the main idea."
Robinson said he teaches his players, "If you lose the ball, you're the first one that needs to go get it. We have 11 people who want to play defense."
The coach said one of the keys for the Bears is their ability to control the ball in midfield with players like seniors Stroud, Harrison Keane and Leo Miedtank, sophomore Lauren Frost and freshman Ryan Hering.
The Bears opened the season with a 1-0 win at Redding Christian Sept. 3, then lost to the Lions, 2-1, in a tournament a couple weeks later in Redding.
Because they weren't full games, that loss and three wins the Bears had in the tournament weren't considered for postseason seeding purposes. It was previously incorrectly reported that they weren't part of the Bears' record.
Before he knew the outcome of the other semifinal match, Robinson said he expected Tulelake to be the Bears' championship game foe. "Tulelake is a tough opponent. We beat them here and tied them there. It will be a tough game."
Mount Shasta won the Shasta Cascade League championship with a 13-0-1 record; the lone blemish was a 2-2 tie at second place Tulelake Oct. 24.