ROYAL CITY — The battle between Royal and Wahluke for the District 5 bragging rights was all you’d expect it to be –a close physical defensive affair from two talented squads that had split close matches in the regular season with each winning on their home turf.
And it lived up to the billing as yellow cards were issued to both teams in a contest was decided by a second half goal.
“Wahluke played tough — no doubt about it — they played tough,” Knights coach Jens Jensen said. “But in the end — what happened has happened a lot this year — we get a piece of magic from Mike. It was a great goal.”
Rojas scored the lone goal of the contest at the 56:11 mark when the UW bound midfielder picked up a ball, cleared the Wahluke midfielders, got past the final two Warrior defenders and blasted a shot past the keeper.
“When I got the ball I saw a lot of space and wanted to take advantage of it,” Rojas said. “I got the one-on-one with the keeper — saw the first post wide open so I shot it to the left side. No way was the goalie going to get to it.”
Although Rojas has been the center of attention the bulk of the season and seems to always come through in the clutch, he’s quick to recognize the efforts of his teammates that have created a lot of opportunities for him and the team as a whole.
“Every one of our guys give it their all each time we step on to the field — and that what makes me — makes all of us successful,” Rojas said. “Our defense has played great — we wouldn’t have made it this far without those guys playing so well and keeping us in games.”
The Knights have shown a tremendous amount of character this year winning seven matches by a point or two and getting excellent play from their keeper Ty Miller who has recorded 14 shutouts and only give up eight goals in 19 matches.
“We really have been helped out this season by a strong defense and a great goal keeper. He really didn’t make a save today that you’d consider...that’s a save...but that’s a big testament to the three guys are in front of him and the two guys that sit in front of him,” Jensen said. “Anyhow...this was a great game and it was fantastic to win another trophy.”
Royal 1 vs Highland 0
Midway through the first half of the district semifinal match with the Scotties one got the feeling the team with the most endurance would come out the victor as Royal and Highland was determined to leave everything they had out on the pitch.
And that’s exactly how the match played out with both teams nearing exhaustion at the final whistle.
“Highland played with one up top, made many substitutions to disrupt the flow of the match, pulled in their midfield to clog up the middle, and were looking for an opportunity to break, score from a corner or free kick, or take advantage of a mistake,” coach Jens Jensen said. “The boys had to be patient and wear them down. It took until about the 60th minute, but from then on it felt like a goal was inevitable as Highland started fading under the pressure.”
The lone goal of the match came off a Michael Rojas PK with under 10 minutes to play after Isidro Torres charged into the box, beat a defender to the ball and was knocked to the ground.
“I had to decide before I addressed the ball which direction I was going (to send it),” Rojas said. “I decided to go left and got it up over the top of the keeper and it ended up being the game winning goal.”
The win put the Knights in the championship match against an all too familiar foe in the Wahluke Warriors, who got past the West Conference No. 1 seed LaSalle, 3-2.