Fourth-seeded East Jefferson has a habit of starting slow, allowing early goals.
Lucky for the Warriors boys soccer team, they’re also revered for finishing fast.
On Thursday night, East Jeff recovered from a one-goal deficit in the first half, adding three of its own in the second half en route to a 3-1 Division II regional win against 13th-seeded Lakeshore at Joseph S. Yenni Stadium.
“We had a lot of motivation from the bench, from the crowd, knowing this is our home,” said Josue Espinoza, who sealed the victory.
The effort started with a free kick from Jean Carlos, about 47 yards away. It continued with Jefri Reyes’ shot over two Lakeshore defenders, giving East Jefferson its first lead. And in the 28th minute of the second half, Espinoza capped another comeback with a shot from 17 yards.
“During the offseason, we learned to win on a 1-0 (deficit), coming back, finding our rhythm,” Warriors coach Jonathan Largaespada said. “The last 15 minutes (of the first half), we found our rhythm but sadly, halftime came. Luckily, we kept it the whole minutes (of the second half).”
East Jefferson improved to 19-4, earning a quarterfinal road match against fifth-seeded Vandebilt Catholic (15-7-7), last season’s state runner-up.
Will this be the year the Warriors advance past the quarterfinals, something they have been unable to accomplish during the last four seasons?
Largaespada hopes so. So does Carlos.
“The people that came to support us; that’s what we needed,” said Carlos, who played Thursday’s match on East Jefferson’s campus. “It was really good to hear your name.
“When the people scream at you for support, I think that was the key.”
Strong winds factored into Thursday night’s game. East Jefferson prefers to keep balls in possession and find gaps, and was forced out of its offensive comfort zone. Still, the Warriors adjusted, like they have many times this season.
Lakeshore’s season ended at 13-6-3.
Lakeshore coach Andrew Knock said his squad loses four starting seniors but will retain leading scorer Keegan Stanworth, a junior.
Lakeshore started fast, controlling the pace. In the third minute, Michael Paulsen’s corner kick set up a goal by Ryan Miller that gave Lakeshore an early lead.
“I wish we could have capitalized again in the first half, and maybe gone up by two or three when we had the wind — and the momentum,” Knock said.
“With the wind against us in the second half, it really hurt us, particularly when it picked up. It made it difficult to possess and continue to attack.
“But I hand it to EJ; they pick up their game in the second half.”
In two playoff games, Vanderbilt Catholic has outscored opponents 13-1. During the same span, East Jefferson has scored 9-1.