Lakeridge moves into the state tournament with a 4-2 play-in victory

by: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge's Bruno Homedes looks to make a pass during Lakeridge's play-in victory over Gresham on Tuesday. The Pacers won 4-2 to move on to the state tournament. The Lakeridge boys soccer team entered the postseason under inauspicious circumstances, having dropped four straight games following a dramatic victory over Lake Oswego.

That slide dropped the Pacers from legitimate TRL contenders to needing a play-in victory just to make the 32-team playoff field.

But the game may have turned out to be a godsend for the Pacers as Lakeridge fought off some early adversity and rolled to a 4-2 win over Gresham, putting the team back in the win column and giving it some momentum heading into the tournament.

“It was a reality check for us. We needed to realize that it's one thing to beat our league rival and another to win a league or state title,” coach Erik Cronkrite said.

The Pacers were a little slow out of the gate and it cost them quickly. Just a few minutes into the game, Gresham made a run through the midfield and finished a shot to go up 1-0.

“We just allowed a guy to run right through us. (Gresham) put us in a tough place from an attacking standpoint because they played us so deep and countered quickly,” Cronkrite said.

But the Pacers rallied quickly. Just a few minutes after falling behind, Alec Ingraham came through to tie the score.

The Gophers continued to pressure Lakeridge in the first half and were rewarded again when the Pacers were whistled for a penalty kick.

However, Lakeridge goalie Toby Holstein came up with a huge stop that seemed to energize the team.

“That kind of vaulted us forward, gave us some confidence and our energy picked up,” Cronkrite said.

The Pacers also received a big jolt off the bench from Teo Gumusoglu who entered the game midway through the first half and gave the team a defensive boost.

A nice goal from Brad Spencer gave Lakeridge a 2-1 which the team took into halftime.

Lakeirdge made a handful of adjustments at the break and started the second half with more energy.

“We just needed to make sure we were stepping to the ball and to use strength in numbers in our attack,” Cronkrite said.

The Pacers scored twice in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Eleonso Cristobal got on the board on an assist by Ben Barna and Tyler Rich made it 4-1.

Gresham would keep things interesting with another goal midway through the second half but couldn't get any closer as the Pacers held on for the win.

Lakeridge will now travel to South Eugene for a game this Saturday. The Axemen are ranked No. 10 in the state by the OSAA.

“Our senior group stepped up. We have a talented team when we defend first. At this point in the season anyone can beat anyone,” Cronkrite said.

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