A persistent Perry moved to within a game of their third consecutive state tourney appearance with a 2-0 win over a pesky South Tama County squad in their Class 2A Substate 7 Semifinal at Dewey Field Wednesday.
Ninth-ranked Perry (15-3) will travel nearly 130 miles Saturday to face No. 6 Hudson (16-2) on the Pirates home pitch after they slipped past Grinnell (8-11), 1-0, Wednesday. The substate final will begin at 12 p.m.
Perry dominated possession throughout the contest with STC (8-9) and bombarded goalie Gabe Rivera in the first half with numerous shots and several close calls that sailed just wide or were a bit high. The sophomore was up to the task, making an unofficial seven saves in the first 40 minutes and helping to keep the game scoreless at the half.
Bluejay senior defenseman Ian Velasco said watching his team pepper the opposing goal with result was frustrating, but, he said, he knew it was only a matter of time before one of the Jays stretched the netting.
“It can be a little tough, but taking shots and not seeing them go in happens all the time, so you just have to stay patient and believe in the attack and each other,” he said. “We knew if we kept the pressure on we would get our opportunities and one of them would go in.”
Velasco said the Trojan attack of long passes over the top was not something he expected, at least as not as frequently as it was attempted, but that the defense was more than capable of adjusting.
“We saw that at the end of the first half they were getting tired, and I knew that they would probably try the long ball more in the second half,” he explained. “It was just a matter of playing your position and knowing your teammates will take care of theirs.”
Ivan Garcia gave the Jays the only goal they would need with an unassisted scorcher six minutes into the second half. The strike was his 14th of the season.
While allowing long possessions and numerous shots, STC played well enough defensively to keep themselves in the game, albeit at the expense of any kind of sustained attack.
Perry goalie Anthony Aragon was rarely threatened in recording his ninth shutout of the season, and received some breathing room with just over 10 minutes remaining when Garcia sent a pass across the front of goal, which Jesus Rodriguez buried for a 2-0 advantage. The assist was the ninth of the year for Garcia while Rodriguez scored for the 16th time.
Now Perry will prepare for a Hudson team that, while scoring five fewer goals than the Jays, has allowed three fewer and has recorded 11 shutouts.
“Knowing you are a win from state can make you nervous, but I don’t think it will bother us,” Velasco said. “Going to state is a big deal and to go three straight times and end my senior year that way would be great. We all know what it takes and have confidence and believe in each other, so I am looking forward (to Saturday).”
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