Redemption, revenge, payback – words that sound like they would apply to Tuesday’s 3-A Western Regional boys soccer final when Marvin Ridge High (20-3-1) visits Reynolds (22-2-2) in a 6 pm start.
But Rockets coach Patrick Gladys will only admit to a little of that kind of feeling when his team hosts the squad that ended their dream of a state title last year.
In a Western Regional final matchup last year, the Rockets had leads of 2-0 and 3-1 vs. Marvin Ridge and were up a goal with less than a minute remaining, but couldn’t close the deal.
The Mavericks scored a late goal in regulation and completed the rally with a 4-3 win in double overtime and went on to win the state championship, a trophy Reynolds believes should be sitting in their case.
“That game certainly left a bad taste in our mouths last year, but I haven’t thought too much about revenge,” said Gladys, who is trying to win a state title for the first time with the boys’ program after leading the Reynolds girls to the crown in 2015.
“Maybe this would be a little payback, but more of this I think is that it’s probably the two best teams in the West, so it’s a fair matchup.”
Marvin Ridge, which also won a state title 2013, has been dominant in the playoffs, beating four teams by a combined 15-0 to stretch their shutout total to 15 this season.
While both teams have some players back from last year’s battle, Gladys said his team is looking ahead, not backwards.
“We graduated a bunch of guys from last year’s team and this is a different group, but for the returning players we feel like we had that game won,” he said.
“We kind of lost our concentration there at the end and we didn’t have anything left in the tank for overtime.”
Reynolds features two dominant offensive players, Matthew Kennedy (32 goals, including all four in a quarterfinal win over Cox Mill last week) and Iziah Vignati (23 goals, 12 assists).
“Its different teams, different year, and hopefully we have some different ideas on how to play them this year,” said Kennedy.
“What happened last year may be a little motivation, but it’s not like we are dwelling on it.”
The Mavericks’ top threat is Hayden Green (20 goals, 17 assists)
“(Matthew and Iziah) are hard to stop, and nobody has really been able to do that, so if they do they have a good chance to win,” said Gladys. “And if we can stop their big guns, we have a good chance.”
Tuesday night’s winner plays for the state title Saturday in Raleigh against the East Regional champion, Chapel Hill or Lee County.