OAKWOOD — “We did what we had to do.”
Those were the words that came out of the mouths of the West Hall Spartans following their 2-0 win over Creekview on Tuesday in Oakwood.
Tied with the Grizzlies and Johnson for first place in Area 7-AAA, and with Johnson holding the tiebreaker, all West Hall could do was win its game and hope that Gainesville would defeat Johnson. If those two scenarios played out West Hall (14-3, 8-2 Area 7-AAA) would win the area title.
Done and done.
Minutes following the fourth-ranked Spartans’ win, they got the help they needed from Gainesville as the Red Elephants knocked off Johnson in penalty kicks. Johnson’s loss gives Creekview the No. 2 seed from Area 7-AAA.
Although he didn’t know at the time, West Hall senior Juan Arbeleaz said that winning the title would mean a lot to the team.
“We’ve been waiting four years for this,” said Arbeleaz, who scored a goal and assist in the win. “We wanted it at the beginning of the season and we said it was our year.”
The Spartans proved that Tuesday against Creekview (10-4-1, 7-3), thanks in large part to a strong defense and their senior co-captain Arbeleaz.
After controlling the majority of the first half and pestering Creekview’s goalie with nine shot attempts, the Spartans finally got on the board in the opening minute of the second half when Arbeleaz took a long pass from Israel Del Toro, raced past the defense and found himself one-on-one with Creekview goalie Josh Felton. Felton didn’t stand a chance.
Arbeleaz fired a low bending shot past the Grizzlies goaltender and into the back of the goal.
“I saw I had more speed than the other guy,” Arbeleaz said. “In the first half they had three midfielders and I couldn’t beat them, but we adjusted at halftime.”
That adjustment paid off again in the 75th minute when Arbeleaz was once again left with only the goalie to beat. Only this time he passed the ball off to his teammate and longtime friend Rudy Vasquez, who tapped the ball into the net to seal the 2-0 win.
“We’ve been friends since middle school and we’re there for each other,” said Arbeleaz, who walked out arm-in-arm with Del Toro, Vasquez and Alex Munoz during the senior night festivities prior to the game.
“Those are my boys,” Arbeleaz said of the three seniors. “They help me out a lot.”
Not only did they help Arbeleaz, but they helped lead fourth-ranked West Hall to its fifth straight win and the area title.
While Vasquez and Arbeleaz provided the scoring for the Spartans, Del Toro and Munoz were part of the four defensemen — Tino Vasquez and Esteban Romero were the other two — that prevented Creekview (10-4-1, 7-3) from getting any scoring chances.
The four prevented the Grizzlies from attempting a shot in the first half and Creekview’s first shot came in the 45th minute when Markus Nettesheim hit the goal post.
That was the closest Creekview came to scoring.
“You need a little luck,” West Hall coach Wolfgang Jager said. “Many times if we concentrate, things fall into place.”
Concentration was key on a night when the Spartans honored their seniors, who were playing for playoff position and a possible region title.
“We knew we needed to win in order to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the area,” Jager said. “This team has done a good job during the season of playing one game at a time.”
They’ll need that mentality next week as the Spartans begin play in the Class AAA state playoffs.
Creekview girls 5, West Hall 3
Brittany Farmer scored two goals, including one on a penalty kick in the first half in the Lady Spartans’ season finale Tuesday in Oakwood.
Tonya Perez also scored for West Hall (11-6, 4-6 Area 7-AAA).
Creekview (9-3-2, 8-2) was led by Lauren Artise, who scored two goals. Megan Crissy, Samantha Logan and Morgan Hall also scored for the Lady Grizzlies.
Creekview begins play in the Class AAA state tournament next week. West Hall’s season is now complete.