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All alone at the top

Boys soccer -- Tualatin, which edged Forest Grove 1-0, leads the Pacific Conference
by: JAIME VALDEZ, BATTLE FOR THE BALL – Tualatin’s Marshall Atmore (right) and Forest Grove’s Julio Galvan fight for the ball in Tuesday’s Pacific Conference match. The Timberwolves won 1-0.

TUALATIN - Tuesday's Pacific Conference boys soccer match between Tualatin and Forest Grove left the Timberwolves feeling a little fortunate.

Fortunate to steal a 1-0 victory with a late goal. And fortunate to have starting spots on Tualatin's varsity soccer team.

Junior forward Kyle Wallace scored the game's lone goal with 3 minutes, 58 seconds remaining to lift the No. 4-ranked Timberwolves to their sixth league win in as many games and an 8-0-2 record overall.

But it didn't come easy for host Tualatin, which was coming off last Thursday's well-played 2-0 victory against previously undefeated McMinnville. The No. 8 Grizzlies came into that game having outscored its opponents 36-5 in an 8-0-0 start to its season before the Wolves provided a blemish.

'Just a tremendous team effort,' said Tualatin coach Eric McClellan of the win over McMinnville. 'We stressed defense and were tight on our marks. When we got our opportunities, we put them away.'

Things were in stark contrast Tuesday as the Wolves weren't connecting with each other or on the other end of passes.

'To me, we could do no worse,' McClellan said. 'It's disappointing because we do have a good team.'

McClellan let his team know of his dismay in their play. After a lackluster first half, he pulled five of his starters 12 minutes into the second half. Four of the five Wolves didn't return until more than 15 minutes later, the other a bit earlier. The move gave the Wolves some fresh legs against a seemingly tireless Vikings squad that paid off with Wallace's late goal. Though the late substitutions proved useful, McClellan had more in mind then giving his players a breather.

'Each kid understands they earn their time on the field,' McClellan said. 'There's plenty of guys on the bench chomping at the bit.'

'It was kind of a wake-up call to show us how bad were playing,' Wallace said. 'I was in awe of how lax we were. That got us focused.'

And, upon his return, Wallace had his sights set on the goal.

Sophomore Marshall Atmore sent a ball inside the 18-yard box that a defender controlled for a split-second before losing his balance and tumbling to the turf. Sophomore Scott Senger was the lucky recipient of the loose ball, passing it to Wallace, who fired a shot from 11 yards out on the right side. The rocket soared past the outstretched arms of the Vikings' keeper and into the top-left corner for the winner.

'Marshall poked it to Senger who gave me a little touch,' Wallace said. 'The goalkeeper was coming at me and I saw the left net was open so I just slotted it.'

Wallace also scored in Tualatin's win over McMinnville, giving the Wolves a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute. Atmore added a goal 15 minutes into the second half as Tualatin won despite playing without standout forward Jarad Van Schaik, who missed his third-straight game against Forest Grove with a foot injury.

The Vikings played unlike a team that is 2-7-0 overall (2-4-0 Pacific) and may have pulled off the upset if not for Wallace's goal and a few key saves by Tualatin keeper Gabe Tatz that preserved the shutout.

'Forest Grove played hard,' McClellan said. 'I feel bad for them because they really outplayed us.'

But it was the Wolves that remained unbeaten.

'We definitely feel fortunate,' Wallace said. 'They pressured hard, were scrappy and hard working.'

Though Tualatin didn't match that intensity, the Wolves still had its share of chances with five shots on goal in the first half.

In the game's sixth minute Senger sent a nice cross in to senior Jeff Matarrese, who one-timed a shot from 10 yards out at the left post that was stopped by diving keeper Ivan Lopez.

In the 19th minute, the Vikings, who had three first-half shots on goal, tested Tatz when sophomore Julio Galvan fired a shot at the right post from 15 yards out that Tatz dove to stop then covered up.

The Wolves consistently overshot their attackers throughout the match, and Forest Grove keeper Ivan Lopez turned away those that were finished, including a nice save early in the second half. Senger ran inside the goal box to chest a ball toward the left post but Lopez scooped the ball out of the air, hooking it just in front of the goal line and whipping it back into play to maintain the scoreless tie.

Tualatin senior Taylor Whitcher's blast from 15 yards out headed toward the right post before Lopez made a sliding grab of the low-flying shot 12 minutes into the second half.

Seven minutes later, it was Tatz's turn. Vikings' midfielder Carter Davis got on the other end of Galvan's corner and sent a solid header at the right-top corner that Tatz jumped to knock over the cross bar.