GONZALES — Midfielder Chris Kline is the unanimous leader of the East Ascension boys soccer team, and Saturday afternoon, the senior captain showed the way in the Division I playoffs.
Kline scored two goals and assisted on two others in propelling the 13th-seeded Spartans, who missed the playoffs last season, to a 4-0 bidistrict win against No. 20 West Monroe.
With the win, East Ascension moves into regional-round play and will face fourth-seeded Acadiana. The Rams defeated Covington 6-1 in first-round action.
Kline put East Ascension (15-8-5) on top in the 15th minute with his first goal. He provided his first assist three minutes later and added a second assist 30 seconds before halftime.
Kline’s second goal came four minutes into the second half, and the Spartans eventually worked their entire roster into the game. It was a welcome sight for EAHS coach Kevin Ford, who didn’t know much about West Monroe (15-4-3) before the match.
“We didn’t have any common opponents, didn’t have a whole lot of knowledge of what they had,” Ford said. “I knew they wouldn’t drive 41/2 hours just to show up.
“I’d heard that if you let them hang around, they might get a set piece (corner kick or free kick), so we wanted to jump on them early.”
The early jump began after West Monroe’s Hayden Dixon had a throw-in from midway up the right sideline on East Ascension’s half of the field.
Kline took possession and dribbled up the sideline through the West Monroe defense before launching a one-on-one shot from left of the goal as two Rebels defenders closed.
Three minutes later, Kline sent a pass from right of the top of the penalty box to Logan Stewart in front of the West Monroe goal. Stewart controlled the pass with his head, and then put a kick into the left side of the net for a 2-0 lead.
“You get that (deficit) early, and you hope your team has the fight in them to overcome it,” said West Monroe coach Lee Morrow, whose team won District 2 with a 7-1 record. “It looked like it got us down early, and you want to see them fight back. We got shocked early.”
East Ascension added a crushing goal in extra time just seconds before the first half ended. Kline chased down a pass near the end line in the right corner, then centered the ball to Carlos Davila, who headed it in for the Spartans third goal.
In the 46th minute, Kline scored from just inside the top right of the penalty box with a kick to the left side of the net.
After the game, Kline kept his focus on how well the entire EAHS team had played.
“Our team deserved it,” Kline said. “We played hard throughout the whole game, and we didn’t slow down. We kept the pace up from the starting whistle. I feel like we deserved to win.”
Clear shots on goal were hard to come by for West Monroe, which got 10 saves from goalkeeper Reagan Hebert. Late in the contest, Carlos Perez broke into the clear from right of the goal, but Andrews stopped the sharp kick for one of his six saves. It was one of the Rebels best scoring chances in the game but came much too late to provide any momentum.
“Obviously, you’ve got the separation from the northern half (of the state) to the southern half,” Morrow said. “The guys down here play a lot together, and they’re very skilled.
“I expected us to come down here and compete, and I thought we did. We ran into a great team, and I wish them all the luck the rest of the playoffs.”