The East Linn Christian Academy soccer team fell just short of its goal of making the 3A/2A/1A state playoffs.
The Eagles fell, 3-1, to Pleasant Hill in a match played on a neutral field at Santiam Christian High School on Thursday, Oct. 25.
Senior Matt Reardon scored the Eagles' lone goal on a pass from fellow senior Kody Jones.
Creswell defeated Pleasant Hill, 1-0, on Saturday to claim the league's second state playoff berth. Santiam Christian took first place in the league to earn the other bid.
ELCA (9-6) closed out the regular season with a 5-1 victory over Central Linn on Tuesday, Oct. 23 in Halsey.
The Cobras opened the scoring in the first half on a goal by junior Landon Cooley.
The Eagles evened the score later in the half on a goal by Jake Vandehey.
In the second half, the Eagles broke the game open with goals by Reardon and Jones. Eli Peters closed out the scoring with two late goals. These were the first varsity goals scored by the senior defender.
Jones had the assist on Peters' first goal. The senior midfielder did a good job of organizing the Eagles' offense throughout the contest.
"He likes to take control and distribute," said ELCA head coach Isaiah Blake.
Eagles assistant coach Chris Carpenter said Jones does a very good job of seeing the game, both on the field and from the sideline.
"He'll come out of play, sit down and get some water, and he'll analyze what the rest of the team is doing, what the opposing team is doing, and he'll use that for his next time in," Carpenter said.
Jones said he enjoys playing at Central Linn. The soccer field is is natural grass, but it is level and in good condition.
"I love how consistent the field is. I like playing on fields like this," Jones said. "I think our team plays a lot faster, quicker and better when we have this consistent turf to play on."
Jones, a three-year varsity player (he missed his sophomore season due to a concussion) said it was a pleasure to be part of this group of seniors.
"My class of seniors, we love soccer," Jones said. "This year we've really had a well-made team, a very balanced team. When you look at the goals for our team it's so spread out. We don't have one or two players that score 20 goals throughout the season, it's five, seven, eight players that all have a few goals. That's encouraging to me because that's a team."
Blake said this year's team competed hard all season and gave everything it had in pursuit of a state playoff berth.
"I feel very proud of them. Last year, we had the issue where we peaked and then we kind of faltered and never seemed to get any traction," Blake said. "This year, we peaked and kind of stumbled a little, but it seemed like we kept fighting and we had that traction and all that momentum."
Blake praised the team for being coachable and doing its best to play the same way they practiced.
"It felt like we were able to coach them to the max of what we know as far as communication, possession, off-the-ball movement, finding space," Blake said.
Carpenter said the team's offensive execution often wasn't evident in the final score.
"We've had the issue with finding the back of the net on our team, where we have a lot of shots, but we don't have the result. This was a good game to actually have our shots find the back of the net," Carpenter said.
The Eagles roster includes 10 seniors, who will definitely be missed next season. But the team also has impressive depth and versatility, which should form a solid foundation for next year's squad. All 19 players on the roster played in the win over Central Linn.