The Evans High School boys soccer team got the kind of performances they needed from the players they were counting on Tuesday night against Northside, Warner Robins and advanced to the semifinals of the Region 2-AAAAA tournament.
Senior captain Josh Baker entered the contest with 36 goals and scored three times, adding an assist on the Knights’ first goal, while senior goalkeeper Luca Castresana made nine saves in the Knights’ 6-2 win.
The win also ensured the Knights fourth consecutive appearance in the Georgia High School Association state tournament.
On paper it appeared Evans (10-3, 5-2 region) would have their way with the Eagles (8-8, 1-6) but led just 2-1 at the break.
“We didn’t feel bad going into halftime at all,” said Baker. “They got that one but we knew if we came out strong in the second half and put one or two on them, we’d be in good shape.”
Baker was ultimately right, but the Knights found themselves still up just 2-1 with under 20 minutes to play.
With 18:08 to go, Nathan Pak scored off a KC Douglas throw-in, Castresana made a diving save on a breakaway by the Eagles’ Alex Gelter less than a minute later and Douglas assisted on Baker’s second goal with just under 14 minutes left as the Knights went up 4-1.
“We have a tendency when we get on a roll to put balls in the back of the net and start to feel comfortable attacking,” said Knights’ head coach Brian Killips.
He was thrilled with the way Castresana, who started in goal just this year, performed.
“Luca is far and away our most improved player,” Killips said. “I’m really encouraged by the way he plays. Tonight he made some remarkable saves for any keeper.”
On a play that awed Killips, Baker went down while battling a defender, pushed himself back up and rifled a shot past the keeper from 20 yards out for his final goal of the night and a 5-1 lead with 10:17 to play.
The Eagles added a late goal but junior Larry Beauchamp answered with his second of the night for the final margin.
Beauchamp, who Killips called a great soccer player, got the Knights on the board first.
At the 28-minute mark, Baker chipped the ball to the middle of the field where Beauchamp took the ball away from a defender, headed left drawing the goalkeeper out then fired to the low right side of the net.
The Knights’ Casey Renn was taken down inside the Eagles’ box with 11:50 left in half. On the ensuing penalty kick, Baker went low right as the keeper guessed left and the Knights led 2-0.
Northside’s Isaac Rivera tighened things up as he got the ball into the right corner of the goal past Castresana with 4:02 left in the half on a direct kick from 18 yards out.
Region 2-AAAAA Soccer Tournament
On Tuesday, the Lakeside Lady Panthers (10-3, 5-2) began defense of their 2013 Region 2-AAAAA title with a 6-1 win over Warner Robins. Cassandra Wade scored twice while Devin Haygood, Logan Williams, Kennedy Smith and Brittney Maclaury had one apiece.
Greenbrier’s Lady Wolfpack (8-1, 7-0) also advanced to the semifinals with a 6-1 win over Jones County. Scoring were Taylor Asendorf, Madison Campbell, Ashton Bowles, Jessi Wright, Riley Tetreault and Madi McArthur. The Lady Wolfpack were set to play host to Evans (7-6, 3-4) on Friday, who advanced to the semifinals with an upset of Northside, Warner Robins, 3-0. Sierra Agee scored all of the Lady Knights’ goals. The win ensured that at least one Columbia County School would be in Tuesday’s girls region final.
The Grovetown girls (3-11-1, 0-7) saw their season come to an end with a 10-0 loss to Houston County.
The Greenbrier boys (9-1, 7-0 region) moved on with a 2-1 win over Jones County while the Lakeside Panthers (6-6-1, 2-5) saw their season come to a close with a 2-1 loss to Warner Robins. The Grovetown boys (1-10-1, 0-7) also played their last game, losing to Houston County, 8-0.