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Fast start propels Seton Catholic boys soccer team past Columbia-White Salmon for 4-0 win

Cougars grab key Trico League win, avenge loss to Bruins earlier this season

By Will Denner, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 25, 2023, 11:31pm
7 Photos
Seton Catholic’s Sam Soto (1) cuts inside against Columbia-White Salmon defenders Angel Michel (21), Osvaldo Orozco (4) and Alex Baldwin (15) during a Trico League boys soccer game on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at Seton Catholic High School.
Seton Catholic’s Sam Soto (1) cuts inside against Columbia-White Salmon defenders Angel Michel (21), Osvaldo Orozco (4) and Alex Baldwin (15) during a Trico League boys soccer game on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at Seton Catholic High School. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Give Sam Soto enough space, and the Seton Catholic sophomore is bound to make you pay.

In the opening half of their Trico League boys soccer game Tuesday against Columbia-White Salmon, the Cougars looked often toward their speedy forward Soto, who took full advantage of the frequent one-on-one matchups he was put into.

Soto needed just 19 minutes to record a hat trick with three goals and also assisted a goal scored by Gavin Erickson to help Seton Catholic grab a crucial 4-0 win. The Cougars took sole possession of first place in the Trico League while the Bruins remain in second.

The win also served as revenge for a 4-0 defeat against the Bruins on March 28, which remains the only loss this season for the Cougars (11-1-1, 9-1).

“That’s the main thing that motivated us to win this game,” Erickson said. “We’re really happy about this. I think this is a huge show of improvement from earlier this season. It showed the work that we put into practice to reverse the score.”

“It felt deserving,” Soto added. “It felt really good. After the loss, it kind of gave us motivation to come back, knowing we could beat them. I think this just proved what we could do.”

When the teams met one month ago on a soggy, muddy grass field in White Salmon, conditions favored the Bruins, who were led by three goals from freshman Isaac Reynoso.

For the rematch, the Cougars were eager to play on their home turf field and unleash their speed.

That was especially true for Soto, who, according to Seton Catholic head coach Antonio Buckley, took it upon himself to win the head-to-head battle against Reynoso after a discussion between coach and player before the game.

“Sam took it as a challenge,” Buckley said. “We knew that on turf, on a bigger field, the way that we play and our gameplan that Sam is going to be 1-v-1 a lot. He was efficient scoring the ball.”

The Cougars’ first goal came in the fifth minute when a long pass to Soto put him against a single Columbia-White Salmon defender, allowing him to dribble inside and fire a shot past the keeper.

After delivering a cross to Erickson in the 12th minute for the Cougars’ second goal, Soto drew a foul in the penalty box and took the ensuing kick, which he scored on.

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The final goal came off a short corner kick in which Soto took a pass from Eli Wall, navigated into traffic before taking aim on goal for the hat trick.

“I feel like as a team we look for each other,” Soto said. “When we’re open in spaces, we always look for the passes and that’s how we got the goals.”

Seton Catholic goalkeepers Zach Catherall and Dylan Hamilton, each of whom played one half, combined to make five saves and earn a clean sheet for the Cougars.

Buckley called Tuesday’s win among his favorites since he began coaching at Seton Catholic in 2020. One, because of the importance of the result, which moves Seton Catholic closer to claiming a third consecutive league title with two league games left. Also, the win is a landmark moment for a team some assumed would take a step back after reaching the Class 1A state tournament and graduating four seniors, including David Moore, who’s now playing Division I college soccer at Liberty.

“It means a lot, because we lost eight starters last year,” Buckley said. “Kids graduated, people didn’t play, so we were kind of rebuilding. Our goal was just to make it to state. … This game pretty much means we’re going to win league three times in a row, so this is huge.”

Where have the Cougars grown the most from the beginning of the season to now, players believe, is in their team chemistry.

“A lot of people coming into this season were scared we weren’t going to be as good as we were last year,” said Erickson, the only senior on the team. “We had four seniors leave. Everyone in the league was like, ‘Oh, that’s their best players. Easy team (to play), they’re going to be mid to bottom table this season.’ They were mistaken in that. I think every team is trying to underestimate us, and I think they’re not going to do it next year.”