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Better than you thought we were

Sandy forces last years league champ to overtime


by: KRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Wyatt Edwards takes aim during Sandy's 3-1 overtime loss to Putnam last Thursday

The scene last Thursday at Sandy High School was a little surprising.

In the moments immediately following Sandy’s 3-1 overtime loss to Rex Putnam, the Pioneer boys soccer players didn’t appear devastated. They weren’t heartbroken or bitter or remorseful. In many ways they were content. Not content with losing, but with what they proved by forcing last year’s Northwest Oregon Conference champion into a gritty overtime match.

“This showed what we can do this season,” Sandy forward Chase Hubbard said. “We can compete with any team in the league.”

With 15 returning, the Kingsmen are as formidable an opponent as they were a season ago, when they beat the Pioneers 6-1.

One year later, it wasn’t pretty, but Sandy effectively battled Putnam and even tied the game after an early one-goal deficit.

“For us to go and turn the result around and be in a position to where we could have won that game, that’s just a huge turnaround,” Sandy coach Garet Luebbert said. “That had to do with our kids being up for this game, not being intimidated, believing they could play with (Putnam).”

In a new season with many returning players of their own, the Pioneers knew they had improved as well — but how much?

Eight games into the season, this was the most important one so far. With five conference games remaining (as of Oct. 11), this was an early measuring stick before getting deep into the NWOC schedule.

“We wanted to beat (Putnam) badly,” Hubbard said.

But in the early going, Sandy was trying to survive more than win. The Kingsmen dictated the tempo and dominated time of possession. Then at the eight-minute mark of the first half, the Kingsmen took a 1-0 lead when midfielder Jose Rivera scored from the top of the box.

by: KRISTOPHER ANDERSON - From left to right, Sandy players Alexis Marin, Wyatt Edwards and Anthony Krening chase a Putnam forward during a 3-1 loss last Thursday.

Most of the first half went to Putnam, and Sandy had to rely on some outstanding defensive efforts to thwart multiple scoring chances.

“With a large amount of returning players, we knew it wasn’t going to be a game where we dominated the time of possession,” Luebbert said. “We were going to have to look for breakout plays, transitions. That’s how it started, but as the game progressed, there were definitely stints there where you could feel (Putnam) was getting more defensive and we were possessing the ball and pushing a little bit more.

“That’s when we were able to take a few more risks and do a few more things and have a few more opportunities to get back into the game. That’s when it really got fun, instead of feeling like we’re just trying to play defense.”

And it allowed Sandy to finally break through.

After fending off a few more Putnam scoring opportunities, Pioneers defender Kennedy Salveter sent a free kick from near midfield into a swarm of players inside the penalty box. The ball bounced around before dropping to the feet of Hubbard, who seemingly had an eternity to take a shot.

“I was shocked that it just laid there,” he said. “It pretty much just came to me.”

Hubbard scored and was then engulfed by his teammates as they celebrated tying the Kingsmen 1-1 with 20 minutes left to play.

Sandy held on and forced overtime. And even though Putnam scored twice in extra time, the Pioneers accomplished something.

Luebbert knew it.

From the first minute to the last, he stood quietly on the sideline. After coaching the same core group of players for about two years now, he doesn’t need to yell or be a constant conductor. He can just let their continuity flow on the field.

And Luebbert’s silence spoke loudly about how far this team has come.

“It’s a compliment to the kids and the work they’ve put in,” he said. “I think that’s the best compliment we can give these kids — we can shut up and let them play.”