East Valley soccer cruises to first-round win | Prep Sports

After dominating the first half of a 2A state tournament first-round game against No. 14 seed Fort Vancouver, No. 3 seed East Valley showed little interest in bunkering down defensively to protect its lead.

The Red Devils kept creating chances and finished one more before wrapping up a 3-0 win to earn a spot in the quarterfinals. A satisfying result, to be sure, but sophomore Manny Brambila said East Valley’s attack could have been better.

“Everyone’s trying to get some goals,” Brambila said. “There was a bit of frustration since we had a few 1-on-1s, couldn’t score them.”

He didn’t bother trying to get behind the defense in the 64th minute, when he collected a pass from Jacob Russell and blasted a shot into the top corner from around 30 yards out. The sophomore called his fifth goal of the season the best one, and Russell referred to it as “a banger.”

East Valley’s other two goals came from much closer, starting with Gavin Gordon’s shot off a long free kick from Diego Lopez. Another Lopez assist right before halftime set up Nicolas Spencer at the top of the six-yard box for his second goal of the season.

Coach Todd Morrow knows his team may need to score more efficiently as quality opportunities diminish against tougher opponents moving forward. He said that’s been something of a weakness all season, even though the Red Devils still managed to score at least three goals in each of their last six games.

He came away more impressed by East Valley’s ninth shutout, including four during its ongoing six-match win streak. Russell, a sophomore, anchored a backline that Morrow said responded well to some big forwards who weren’t afraid of contact.

“They wanted to play physical so we just played physical and we covered each other,” Russell said. “I trust my center back Gavin Gordon enough that if I step up he’s got my back and I know he trusts me just as much.”

Russell also credited the leadership of Lopez and defenders Erik Tello and Jonathan Rodriguez, two of the three senior starters for the young Red Devils. Both Russell and Brambila acknowledged feeling some nerves in their first state appearance, but they disappeared quickly as East Valley just missed scoring less than two minutes into the game.

Fort Vancouver forced only one save from freshman Sammy Gonzalez in its first state playoff game since 1988 and the Red Devils’ first win since the 2017 semifinals. To return to that stage, East Valley will need to beat No. 6 Squalicum, which knocked off No. 11 Fife 4-0 Wednesday night.

Along with converting its chances, Morrow said he’d like to see East Valley improve its possession game, something they’ve thrived on lately. But despite those concerns, he also exuded the confidence that comes from watching his team always find a way to win, even when it’s not at its best.

“I think overall this group of guys could be better at finishing, honestly,” Morrow said. “But at the same time they’re putting goals away when they need to.”

First half: 1, East Valley, Gavin Gordon (Diego Lopez), 9:00; 2, East Valley, Nicolas Spencer (Lopez), 40:00.

Second half: 3, East Valley, Manny Brambila (Jacob Russell), 64:00.

Saves: Parker Rodriguez Schafer (FV) 8; Sammy Gonzalez (EV) 1.