Scouting potential playoff soccer teams got a lot more difficult this fall.
Learning anything about a possible opponent very nearly became a Halloween scare-off.
Corvallis High’s boys and girls teams, Crescent Valley’s boys and both Philomath teams played well enough to receive top 8 seeds.
CV’s girls were ranked ninth and had to host a play-in match against Springfield on Saturday. The Raiders won that and earned a date with Liberty for today.
Play-in pairings weren’t set until midnight on Halloween, when the rankings were frozen, and that created issues for teams with first-round home berths.
“I would like to be able to just go and see for sure (who we’re playing),” CHS boys coach John Callahan said. “This year, the most likely opponent for us played (Thursday) and we didn’t find out until (Thursday) afternoon. There’s no way I could have scouted it.”
That earliest of early play-in games was between No. 24 Churchill and No. 9 Liberty
Once all the play-in games are finished, the OSAA will place the opponents based on final ranking.
That puts even more guesswork into scouting games.
“I have no idea who we’re playing,” CV boys coach Casey Fries said. “I think we’ll be playing at CHS in a tripleheader with the two CHS teams.
“I know we’ll be playing (today).”
Play-in games were to be finished on Saturday, which means coaches should have known their opponent on Sunday.
“That’ll give us an idea, and I’ll at least do a little research,” PHS boys coach Anton Grube said.
“I’ll talk to my buddies in the coaching ranks and find out who we will face,” Callahan said. “That’s about all I can do at this point.”
In the meantime, the approach was fairly similar for all the teams waiting: focus on what they do and what they need to improve.
“What we’ve done the last couple days is just work on fundamentals,” PHS girls coach John Williams said. “The key part of soccer is possessing the soccer ball. That’s what we work on. The team that possesses the ball is the one that wins the game most of the time.”
Fries isn’t too worried about who the No. 6 Raiders face today. CV finished the season with two losses and a tie, albeit to No. 1 Woodburn, No. 8 Corvallis and No. 14 West Albany.
The concern for CV is getting back to playing the sort of soccer that led to a seven-match win streak.
“We are working on getting ourselves back into our proper state of minds and the type of football we like to play,” Fries said. “We need to focus on our kind of football.”
He figures — as do other coaches — that the best teams will be left on Tuesday, so every match will be tough.
“This is OK, it allows us more time to sort ourselves out,” Fries said. “At this point in the season, we’ll be playing somebody good. We’ll make adjustments at the halftime, we’ll come out and play our style of football and we’ll be OK.”
Ordinarily, coaches would like to keep their teams playing, even if it meant facing a vastly inferior opponent in a play-in match.
But this isn’t most years and the playoff changes may work to the advantage of Callahan, Fries and Grube.
CV girls coach Jessica Caze is on the other side of the issue. The Raiders, champions of the Mid-Willamette Conference, wound up ranked ninth in the final power rankings, leading to their hosting Springfield last Saturday.
“It’s not ideal, but it is what it is,” Caze said. “We have to deal with one game at a time.
“We struggled in the preseason. With the way the RPIs are, it ignores conference a bit, so you just have to roll with the punches.”
If the Raiders make a deep playoff run, it’ll just be one more game they’ve played. However, it quite likely also means one less home game.
“Hopefully we’ll have a team, we’re ranked No. 4, so hopefully we’ll get a team that we have a good chance of getting a victory,” Grube said.
“It’s a good mix,” Callahan said. “It’s good to have a bye and good to get some rest, but I like to play and get some tuneup. At the same time, I like to get the rest.
“I see the advantage of both.”