Royal Bay Ravens look to fly against top-level soccer teams

Colwood-based high school's senior boys explode in final regular-season match

St. Andrew’s defender and Colwood resident Liam Keane goes up for a header near his net with the Ravens’ Masahiro Kitajo in senior boys high school soccer action at Royal Bay. The Ravens

The Royal Bay Ravens enter the high school boys soccer playoffs on a high note this week, after winding up their season with a resounding win on home turf in Colwood.

The Ravens kick off Colonist Cup tournament play this week and begin the road to provincials next week with the Island AAA championships Nov. 9 and 10 at Oak Bay. While doing well in Cup play – the city championships – would be a positive, more important is getting another chance to play some of the city’s big guns before Islands, said Royal Bay coach Josh Soberg.

Royal Bay finished fourth in the Tier 1 league at 5-3, with their losses coming against league-leading Reynolds (3-1), No. 2 St. Michaels University School (5-0) and third-place Oak Bay (3-0), all of whom are competing at Islands next week.

“All three are fantastic teams, they are very good … We can definitely contend with them at Islands, so I’m really looking forward to the next two weeks,” Soberg said last week after the Ravens beat St. Andrew’s 5-1.

While their Grade 11-12 population would make them a AA-level school, Royal Bay chose to move up to AAA for playoffs to gain a higher level of competition and be more challenged, Soberg said.

The Colonist Cup and Island draws were unavailable by the Gazette’s press deadline. Last year’s Island tournament saw just two teams, Reynolds and Oak Bay, advance to provincials.

As for what it will take to knock off one or more of the big three, Soberg said, “It’s going to take us sticking inside of our heads and not letting them invade us, mentally and emotionally.

“The big thing with these guys is when you hear the name of a private school, or you hear Oak Bay … they automatically become a little bit more defensive and I don’t want that to happen,” he said. “We’ve won our games being aggressive, working our hardest and that is what will benefit us playing against these teams. They will not expect someone to come against them aggressive; they’re used to teams coming up being more passive, more defensive and allowing them to attack.”

After suffering their most lopsided loss of the season Oct. 25 against SMUS, the Ravens were a well-oiled machine against St. Andrew’s two days later.

They opened up a 1-0 lead by halftime with a goal from Masahiro Kitajo, then exploded in the second half, using their speed on the wings and crisp passing to add to their lead.

Devon Austin, Jorge Marin and Daniel St. Laurent scored, while one of the tallies was marked down as an own goal by St. Andrew’s.

The spread of scoring through the lineup impressed Soberg and left him optimistic about what the Ravens might be able to do against top competition.

“It tells me that we don’t rely on one player and one player alone,” he said. “We’re dynamic, we can attack from wide, we can attack down the middle, in the air, on the ground – it’s fantastic to see. I’m very happy.”

Following Thursday’s Colonist Cup quarter-final matches, the semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 17, with the date and time for the final to be announced.

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