For the first 10 minutes of each half, Ridgeview was pinned back defensively. The Ravens were under duress, as Bend High pressured Ridgeview’s back four.
But time and again, the Ravens answered the call, with goalkeeper Dakota Curtis highlighting the defense with save after save to help Ridgeview force a 0-0 boys soccer draw at Bend’s 15th Street Field on Thursday.
“Bend’s a really good team, and they scared my pants off in the first 10 minutes of each half,” Ravens coach Keith Bleyer said. “I just can’t say enough about our back four today.”
T.J. Smith and Chase Bennett stood out to Bleyer, with the two defenders having the intelligence to pass or clear out balls that the Lava Bears forced deep within the defense of Ridgeview (2-1-2).
But it was Curtis who stole the spotlight. Thirty seconds into the first half, Bend’s Scott Bracci found some space and ripped a shot from 18 yards out.
“Before the game, (Bleyer) told me and the other keeper (Anthony Estrada) that we were going to split halves,” Curtis said. “He wanted to get that fire built in me, and it worked. The first half, I had one big save right off the bat, and that just got me going.”
Curtis then made what Bleyer called an “all-state level save” to keep the Lava Bears off the scoreboard.
The Ridgeview keeper continued that performance for the final 79 minutes, capped by a save with about two minutes to play, again on a shot from Bracci.
Bracci consistently threatened the Ravens’ defense, finding windows of opportunities throughout the match and challenging Curtis.
But each attempt was thwarted.
“He’s an attacking player,” Bend coach Nils Eriksson said of Bracci. “He’s one of the better players in the league. So yes, I do expect that out of him. But also, it’s important that we get all the supporting cast involved, too, because it’s easy to key in on one player.”
Not all credit went to the Ridgeview keeper. Bleyer, as well as Eriksson, noted the solid defense of Ridgeview’s back four, as they identified the standout Lava Bears and shut them out for 80 minutes.
“I thought they did a good job keying in defensively on our stronger players,” Eriksson said. “They did a good job of keying in on them. We weren’t able to solve what they came up with defensively.”
Bend High (1-2-3) delivered its first shutout of the season, which Eriksson said is a sign the Bears have continued to improve from their first game of the season. But there was still one thing Bend could not do on Tuesday.
“I wish we would have been able to solve their defense a little better, but we didn’t,” Eriksson said. “That’s what we’re going to need to work on.”
Bleyer and the Ravens are “absolutely, positively not satisfied” with the draw, but after a disappointing loss to Madras at home on Tuesday, Ridgeview’s confidence is back on the rise, Bleyer said, as the Ravens are reaching their coach’s goal of competing on the same level as Bend, Mountain View and Summit.
“Unfortunately, the crucible of a small school playing the Bend schools means that all we have to deal with is Summit on Tuesday and then the state finalist in Mountain View (on Thursday),” Bleyer said. “But this will certainly help. It’s a great way to kind of turn the week around.”