CAMAS — Josh Stoller was brutally honest when asked if free kicks, the very thing that put Camas over the top Thursday, are a strength of the Papermakers boys soccer team.
“No,” the head coach said after Camas claimed a 2-1 win against Union.
Perhaps the Papermakers had some luck on their side, or were simply taking advantage of a mismatch. But after they trailed the Titans 1-0 at halftime, two goals via free kicks in the second half propelled the Papermakers to a key 4A Greater St. Helens League win.
First, Jayden Alvez delivered a straight-on strike from 35 yards in the 51st minute, before JP Warnell provided the go-ahead goal on a free kick from the right corner that found the inside of the near post.
“We have some good individuals that are good at free kicks,” Stoller said. “(I) was not expecting those to go in, but, you know, we said from the beginning of the day, let’s test the keeper. That’s what they did.”
Camas was reeling at halftime, trailing 1-0 after Union’s Garik Shevchuk scored in the 23rd minute. The Papermakers (5-3-1) have had an up and down first month of the season, while struggling at times to play together, Stoller said. On Thursday, they took it upon themselves to be better.
“The team atmosphere in the locker room, when we came out, we all had the right mentality,” said Warnell, a senior forward. “We wanted to win this game. We came out, we fought hard and put two in the back of the net.”
Alvez’s long-distance equalizer jolted the Camas sideline as the clock ticked under 30 minutes remaining.
“It gave us the momentum that we needed to really push through,” Warnell said.
A Union foul in the 68th minute gave Camas another free kick in a threatening position. Players have the green light to go for goal on free kicks, Stoller said, but it’s up to the leaders on the field to decide who takes a kick given the situation and position on the field.
This time, Warnell stepped up to the spot. He sized up the goalkeeper’s positioning and the space he was given. The senior’s left-footed shot attempt found the back of the net.
“Finally getting to see that extra effort, that extra grit and determination come to life in a game, it’s nice to see as a coach,” Stoller said. “It’s reassuring that they have it in there to turn around from a deficit and put up the extra fight.”
Hard-fought wins over 4A GSHL foes Skyview and Union in the past week has Camas in sole possession of first place in the league standings. The Papermakers have reason to believe a come-from-behind win over their rivals will help them gain confidence. They also remain guarded, knowing any 4A GSHL team can win on any given night.
“As a team, we need to keep pushing,” Warnell said. “It’s not over yet. We need to keep going.”