COWICHE — Freshmen Eliseo Romero recorded his second game winning goal in as many games and Royal held off Highland 1-0 in a State quarterfinal match on the Scotties home field Friday.
The score came just under eight minutes into the contest.
“It was awesome to get the early goal. It was everything we were looking for,” Knights coach Jens Jensen said. “You come here…into someone else’s house and get any early score and that really put the pressure on them. That’s exactly what we were after.”
The navigator on Map Quest took me up a long winding narrow roadway up the backside of nowhere on the outskirt of town. Much to my surprise it I arrived at my destination — on the lower soccer field on the Highland High School campus. The grounds looked more like a practice area than a main field where a state venue would take place. It was extremely wide and the turf was long and rolling. But the ‘home field advantage’ didn’t seem to bother Royal.
The obvious focus for the Scotties was to gang up on the Knights leading scorer Michael Rojas and that’s precisely what took place. But in so doing, it created the scoring opportunity for Romero who came through with a sliding goal that got past the Highland keeper.
“I saw the ball coming in from the other side,” Romero said. “When I got it I saw the goalie coming out and I tipped it with the end of my feet and it went in.”
Romero also got the came through with the winning goal against Brewster in the opening round of the tournament. The talented underclassman has really come out of nowhere the second half of the season to become an integral part of the Knights offense.
“He’s so calm and composed with the ball,” Jensen said. “For being such a little guy…and he’s not that fast. He does a pretty good job with his body to be able to keep the ball.”
Romero said he’s worked hard to gain the confidence of his coach and teammates in his first varsity season.
“I’ve practiced hard… put in the time to perfect my game,” Romero said. “I’ve been going out with my dad a lot…I’ve played city league and club and I feel like that has helped me a lot too”
Highland had a couple of opportunities to level the match, but Royal’s defense refused to yield.
“The only real chance they had at a goal was when the ball dropped and they had a shot,” Jensen said. “There was a couple of free kicks that were a little dangerous that Ty (Miller) could’ve come for…but overall we had a good defensive effort…we were solid in the back.”
Having now moved on to the semifinal round with the win, the Knights can do no worse than a fourth place finish.
“A trophy is in our future, which is good, but we are after the No.1 spot,” Jensen said. “We haven’t won it before…we’re hoping that this is the year.”
Royal has made it to the Final Four twice in school history. The Knights finished third both times.
“The first time we went we met Wahluke. We played them four times that year and lost all four games,” Jensen said. “We’re hoping this game is an opportunity to flip things… to get a win over them and get into the finals.”
The match with the Warriors will take place at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner Friday. The contest is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start. The winner moves into the championship game Saturday. The plays for third place.
ROYAL CITY — A shot from freshman Eliseo Romero at the 18:21 mark thrilled the home crowd when his left-footed boot from 19-yards out found the lower left corner of the Bears box to give Royal the early lead. His goal turned out to be the game winner.
“Brewster putting 10 guys in between the ball and the goal caused them to concede the goal,” Knights coach Jens Jensen said. “The shot from Eliseo was placed perfectly in the corner and due to all the players in the way, the Brewster goalkeeper never saw it and barely moved.”
The conditions were pretty miserable to play under, as the heat definitely was a factor and not even the slightest breeze to cool things down.
“With a 5 p.m. kick-off smack dab in the middle of the hottest part of the day, the heat made for an interesting wrinkle,” Jensen said. It was 89 degrees at the start– 89 degrees at half time –and 87 degrees when the game ended. Each half saw the referee issue a five minute water break to let the players hydrate. “Brewster deployed familiar defensive tactics — we had many chances, but could not seem to find the goal more than once today.”
It was Royal’s 15th shutout of the year and their fourth in postseason play. The Knights keeper Ty Miller has a lot to do with that stat.
“We work hard out here — my defense helps me out a lot,” Miller said. “They do most of the wok and I just clean up after them.”
That’s a rather modest response by Miller who made two key saves in the contest; one off a free kick and a diving save on a ball that was shot from the near corner.
“It (the free kick) was really close so I knew I needed a big wall. I didn’t know what he was going to do so I just lined up in the middle and it came right to me,” Miller said. “They had turned the corner on the other save – I was on my near post and he was kind of close when he kicked it. I was fortunate to able to get down and grab it.”
The Knights have racked up their share of close wins this season and no doubt would like to see a wider margin of victory to reduce the stress factor a bit. But having been in so many close games they know how to win under pressure, which is precisely what the postseason brings.
“The goal and the mission at this point is to play very maturely…to realize that we’re going to have a difficult time just running people off…it doesn’t mean we can’t,” Jens said. “If a few of these chances we had tonight go in this thing is a blowout…but it wasn’t and we got to take that 1-0 win and go with it.”