Cougar soccer team qualifies for a first-round rematch against the No. 1-ranked Riverdale Mavericks

After a five-year absence, the Gervais boys soccer team is making a return trip to the state playoffs after beating Santiam Christian Eagles 3-1 Friday in an elimination game in the Special District 3 league tournament.

“This is a new experience for the boys,” said Gervais coach Juan Flores, whose oldest players were in middle school the last time the team qualified for the post-season. “They’re happy right now.”

The Cougars (5-3-5, 4-1-3 SD3) entered the conference playoffs on a streak of six games without a loss, including a 1-1 draw against Delphian to end the regular season on Oct. 25.

But the two teams met again Tuesday in the first round of the league tournament, and the Dragons scored a 2-0 victory over Gervais to force the Cougars into an elimination game against Santiam Christian.

Gervais had already beaten Santiam Christian 7-0 in September, but with the end of the season on the line, the Eagles gave the Cougars a much stronger effort.

The victory for Gervais puts the team in line for a difficult first-round match against the No.1-ranked Riverdale Mavericks (12-0, 9-0 Special District 1), which was scheduled for Monday. The Mavericks boast the second-best defense in the state after allowing just eight goals all season, but two of those scores were given up against Cougars when Gervais lost 5-2 to Riverdale in September.

Flores said his players are excited to make it this far and are ready to give their full effort against the Mavericks, regardless of how well the team is ranked going into the playoffs.

“All they want to do is play the game,” he said. “It could be No. 1, No. 3 or No. 10, they don’t care. They want to play hard.

Flores hopes to put a lot of pressure on the Mavericks’ leading offensive threat, senior forward/midfielder Ben Field, and make him work hard throughout the game just to get the ball.

“We know that they have a really good player,” said Flores. “We’re going to try to have somebody chase him throughout the game and get after him from the first minute through the last minute.”

A victory for Gervais would put the Cougars in the quarterfinals Saturday against either No. 8 St. Mary’s or No. 9 De La Salle.

Editor’s note: The Gervais boys soccer team lost 6-0 to the Mavericks on Monday to finish their 2013 season.

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