(This article was originally published on JMcDonaldMedia.com)
By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– With a perfect regular season league season staring them down entering the fourth quarter up 13-10 in their 18-12 win over West Albany Tuesday night, West Salem was not about to hand over the top-seed to anyone else but themselves.
Having won six-straight North Valley League titles entering this year, there was a sense that the Titans want to win number seven in front of their home crowd thanks to the win, but will have to get past McNary on Friday in the league playoff-opener to even have a chance to compete for that feat.
But as the Bulldogs clawed their way to a two-goal deficit at 13-11 and then at 14-12, there was a feeling that the West Salem team that lost five straight out of the Spring Break and are low on numbers this year showed the fight in their dog as well.
Cam Van Leuven and his defense stepped up to the challenge in front of them. Once they cleared the ball up the field, Van Leuven and former West Salem Goalie and now coach John Holmes exchanged a few words about the game at hand.
What’s even better, the current Titan goalie fed off his offense as his offense did off of them on defense with Garrett Davis and Jack Livengood helping turning stops into goals on the board.
“It’s honestly a good feeling because you know that goal…it’s like an assist almost but it’s so great seeing your save or your pass going down being a goal,” said Van Leuven. “If we thought we were too comfortable, I knew they were going to comeback fighting.
“They were going to take any shot that they could find. So we had to stay calm and stay discipline as we could to come out with a good defense.”
Both teams scrap and fought for loose balls. Rhett Cooper pushed the lead to 15-12 before another big defensive stand led to a Davis goal.
West Albany’s attack came back strong, trying to find anything to crack the back of the net. No luck as Van Leuven let out a loud Ric Flair-like yell with 3:27 left in the game up 16-12 as Davis scored again moments later
Livengood scored the final West Salem goal for the final result. It was his sixth-goal of the game, two shy of his older brother Wyatt’s career-high of eight goals set at his time playing for the Titans.
“I’ll make a promise right now, I’m going to beat Wyatt someday,” joked the sophomore Livengood. “I think we did pretty good. Probably would best of the season, but we still made some errors. Not as much as we usually do. We just got to keep working in practice, our last few practices have been really good, we’ve just have to keep it up.”
Van Leuven talked about discipline, and certainly they’ll need it moving forward with the Celtics coming to their side of the bridge Friday night at 7pm. For that discipline, it all starts in the preparation with practice.
“It’s all about practices. If we come during the week and we don’t have any good practices, it’s going to reflect in game time,” said Van Leuven. “Earlier this season, we’ve had a week where we didn’t have any good practices and we lost five games in a row. It’s all about good, discipline practices.”