Royals junior Saul Rodriguez looks to control the ball late in the game against the Ravens. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Royals junior Saul Rodriguez looks to control the ball late in the game against the Ravens. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kent-Meridian boys soccer ready for playoffs

Royals finish in third place in the NPSL standings.

The Kent-Meridian Royals and Auburn Riverside Ravens played their final game of the regular season May 2 that ended 2-2. The two sides came into the game in second and third place — Kent-Meridian needed to win to lead the Ravens, while Riverside just needed a draw.

“I considered this a playoff game because of who we play and the implications of who we play next. I thought our boys did a great job of keeping their cool,” Head Coach Brian Gabert said.

Entering the game over the past two seasons, the sides have split those games, but by a decisive 3-0 result. The Royals entered unbeaten in their last three games and had scored three goals in four out of their last five games.

The first half ended with neither side finding the back of the net. The first half, Kent-Meridian dominated possession and opportunities. The Royals flooded the box with crosses and their wingers were able to get down the sidelines on the Ravens. But there were no goals to show for it going into the break.

“We had a good physical battle. With this draw it’ll give us some momentum going into playoffs,” said junior Elijah Karriem.

Kent-Meridian sophomore Edgar Govea punts the ball. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kent-Meridian sophomore Edgar Govea punts the ball. Ben Ray / The Reporter

One challenge for the Royals was starting two players who were getting their varsity debut in the most important game of the year.

“I would give them an A … They didn’t make any mistakes, they didn’t do anything spectacular, but just played a good game,” Gabert said.

Throughout the second half, the teams got after it. Riverside got on the board first with a sensational goal in the 54th minute of the game. Just under six minutes later, the Royals equalized the game off the left foot off Saul Rodriguez.

A failed clearance from the Ravens put the ball in the control of the junior midfielder, who took the shot from 20 yards out and nailed the back of the net.

Immediately following the Royal equalizer, the Ravens went right down and “exposed a weakness in our defense,” Gabert said. As quickly as the game was tied, it was untied by the Ravens.

But the Royals bounced right back in the 62nd minute. A great run from Irving Baca-Silva put him inside the penalty area and he sent a short, late cross in. Rashane Braidy leaped higher than any other player and sent the header into the back of the net, tying the game at 2-2.

Kent-Meridian sophomore Irving Baca-Silva evades a defender. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Kent-Meridian sophomore Irving Baca-Silva evades a defender. Ben Ray / The Reporter

“To have that high and then that low. Then to respond to that and keep opportunities coming, I thought we did a good job,” Gabert said.

The rest of the game was extremely intense with both teams knowing what was on the line. Both keepers rose to the occasion, making a handful of saves late, and the defenses locked it down.

With a draw being the result, the Ravens took second place in the 3A NPSL division and travel to Silas High School. The Royals face Spanaway Lake on May 6 at French Field with kickoff at 1 p.m.

“It’s going to be the same intensity. Our next game is winner out, we have to hit these practices hard and get ready for our next game,” Karriem said.

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