CALHOUN — Once the postseason arrives, teams must raise the level of their play as the competition gets a little stiffer with each passing round.
The Sonoraville Phoenix got a big postseason test right out of the gate in the Class AAA State Tournament first round, but they responded in fine fashion. They welcomed defending Class AAA state champion West Hall to town on Thursday, and earned a 4-1 victory to keep their season alive.
Sonoraville (15-4), who advanced past the first round for the second straight season, will now travel to Spencer on Tuesday for their second-round matchup in Columbus.
“We came out confident and expecting to win,” said Sonoraville coach Hector Holguin of his team’s effort on Thursday. “We knew West Hall is a good team. They’re the defending state champion, and even though they’re a No. 3 seed, they play in an extremely tough region.
“We knew we had to come in here and play very well to win, and I think we did that. We wanted to pressure the ball from the start. The guys came out and pressured from the start, and we were able to finish some goals from our chances and earn a big win.”
After the teams traded close to equal possession for the first 20 minutes of the contest, the Phoenix were the first to get on the board, scoring in the 22nd minute on a header from Maurilio Segura off a throw-in assist from Kevin Villatoro.
West Hall (6-8-1) responded accordingly, however, as they scored just four minutes later as Sergio Hernandez took a touch in the box, turned and put one in the back of the net to tie things at 1-1.
Sonoraville seized the momentum back going into the half as Villatoro used some nifty footwork with the ball deep in the West Hall’s half, before sending one into the goal to make it 2-1 in the 32nd minute, and that would remain the score at the break.
The Phoenix came out for the second half using the same high-pressure approach and gave themselves some insurance with another goal by Segura off a corner kick from Jonathan Soldevilla to make it 3-1 in the 43rd minute.
Sonoraville’s back line and goalkeeper Adam Schwartz stepped up from there as each time West Hall threatened, they answered the challenge as they wouldn’t allow another score.
The Phoenix put the exclamation point on the victory in the 77th minute a scorching goal into the upper left corner of the goal from Dawson Holbrook off an Omar Jacobo assist.
“The way our defense played in the second half and getting those two goals to extend the lead was huge,” said Holguin. “We faced some adversity today. We didn’t know if Kevin was going to be able to play after getting hurt in the region championship game, and then in warm-ups, our leading scorer Alexander Soldevilla, got hurt and just played a few minutes tonight. But our guys stepped up and got the job done.”
The Phoenix earned their first playoff win last season before being knocked out in the second round by Decatur, but Holguin said his team is confident and has high expectations moving forward that they can take things to a new level this year.
“Our No. 1 goal coming into the season was to win our region, and we came up a little short of that but we still feel like we can play with the best teams in the state,” said Holguin. “Our goal is to perform well every time we go out there. We feel like we’ve prepared for this. It’s going to be tough from here on out, but if we come out and play to our full ability, we’re going to be a tough out for anyone. We’re looking forward to what’s ahead.”