Tigers make a return trip to state tournament
The Green Forest Tigers went 9-9-1 on the year, but they made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state soccer tournament. The senior class made it to the Class 4A state tournament three out of four years.
"We didn't reach our ultimate goal, but I thought we had a pretty decent year," Green Forest coach Jonathan Bryant said. "We came up short in a couple big games, but we played real hard. It's one of those where everybody gave everything they had, you just come up a little short."
The Tigers started the year 0-5-1, but that was against some very good competition.
"I set us up for a brutal nonconference schedule," Bryant said. "We played the Class 4A, 6A and 7A defending champions. When you play three out of the four defending state champions, you are either in line to make a run for yourself or you are crazy. One of the two. We wanted to see what we had mentally, physically and see how much heart they had. They gave me a lot of good things. There were some teams that we didn't have any business playing, but we played anyway. They gave everything they had every time they stepped on the field."
Green Forest then got into conference play and went 8-3, which included a 4-3 road win at Subiaco Academy. Edson Merida scored two goals, while Randi Alvardo and Fredy Ortiz had one.
"We were supposed to play Subiaco at home this year, but rain on our field was going to postpone it," Bryant said. "We were both looking at dates to reschedule and neither team had anything open. Their coach said we could go down there and we didn't want to, but after looking at the schedule it made sense. We walked on the field and it was just a different feeling than a normal game would be. They came out on fire. They were up 2-1 at halftime and after giving a motivational speech at halftime, they go up 3-1. Had this been our first conference game, we could have lost this game very easily, but instead we came to life with about 20 minutes remaining. We put up three goals in 20 minutes to win the game."
The Tigers also got a 7-4 win over Cossatot River in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament. Jose Hernandez scored three goals, while Franklin Morales, Caesar Lopez, Merida and Alvarado all had one.
"We got down there knowing we were getting ready to play probably the best players in Class 4A," Bryant said. "They have a striker, midfielder, wherever he wants to play who is just a great player. The kids played hard. I was extremely proud of them. They were tired of hearing about how good they were and how nobody was talking about us."
Bryant will always remember the eight seniors who are graduating — Rafael Rosales, Urbano Reyes, Carlos Ajtun, Elber Lopez, Ofni Lopez, Hernandez, Merida and Ortiz.
"I appreciate everything the seniors have done for our program," Bryant said. "For the most part, those seniors have been four-year starters. They came in the year after we won state and basically became our program. Everybody always says this, but it's going to be difficult to replace those guys. They have been with me since I have been the coach so I told the guys it will be extremely difficult to get ready for next year without them being with me."
Bryant is already trying to get his team ready for next year, though.
"We are in the weight room right now," Bryant said. "I have a lot of small guys so we have to get stronger. I'm not doubting their playing abilities. They are all great players, we just have to put some weight on. I can't help them grow, but I can help them put some weight on. We are going to try to put some weight on and try to be a little bigger and tougher. If you want to be the best team, you have to be a physical team. You have to be able to take hits and deliver hits."