Archive for Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Smith: THS soccer’s OT regional final was epic

December 29, 2010

Every time the end of the year rolls around, it’s pretty easy to start feeling nostalgic about the not-so-distant past. Reflecting on the events that transpired in the past 365 days becomes the natural thing to do with the new year ready to commence.

In the world of sports, that leads us to look back at the biggest winners, unlikely stories and memorable games, and 2010 was full of them all — the once pathetic New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl, tiny Butler University from the relatively unknown Horizon League played for the NCAA championship in men’s basketball and a ragtag lineup backed by an amazing pitching staff helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series.

Nationally, those are the story lines and games that will go down in the annals of sports history. Locally, athletes won league, regional and state championships at Tonganoxie High, but only one game will be remembered as the best of 2010.

If you were there, you know it couldn’t be matched. If you weren’t, well, you just missed out.

The date: October 29. Location: Benedictine College Soccer Complex in Atchison. Occasion: The Tonganoxie boys soccer team playing for a regional championship.

Epic is a word that gets thrown around too much but as far as high school soccer matches go, the Chieftains’ regional title showdown with Maur Hill-Mount Academy would live up to that billing.

It took nearly three hours from start to finish and after four overtimes and penalty kicks, the Ravens finally eliminated the Chieftains in the second round of sudden-death penalty kicks.

The final score read 5-4 in MHMA’s favor. It took such a remarkable, drama-filled finish for THS to be eliminated, that alone would have made it the best game of the year, but the fact that Tonganoxie was in that match to the very last second coming off a one-win regular season multiplied the wow factor by 10.

After the gut-wrenching, season-ending loss abruptly closed with a match-clinching penalty kick by the Ravens’ Craig West, Chieftains coach Brian Kroll was asked what he would have thought if someone told him a few weeks prior (when THS was in the midst of a 12-match losing streak) that his team would lose in overtime of a regional final. His response: “I would have asked them if I had become the coach of a different team.”

No one saw it coming. Not even the coach.

Even so, there the Chieftains were, attacking on the road in the playoffs, putting more shots on goal in the first 20 minutes than they had in any opening stretch in the season, with sophomore Matt Saathoff leading the boot barrage.

On the opposite end of the pitch, MHMA had opportunities, too, but every time the Ravens found an opening, sophomore THS goalkeeper Keaton Truesdell was there to leap, dive and swat them away.

Once MHMA finally squeezed a goal past Truesdell in the 34th minute, Tonganoxie responded with haste, as junior Chieftains captain Matt Briggs powered a shot toward the goal from about 35 yards out in the 39th minute. The ball slammed off the bottom of the crossbar and bounced off the ground. Initially, play continued as if Briggs’ shot had missed. Saathoff even combated Ravens goalkeeper Andres Torre Lima for the rebound. But the referee’s assistant saw Briggs’ shot hit the turf behind the goal line and awarded THS the tying goal.

What followed was more than 70 minutes of both teams refusing to bend, let alone break. The match remained tied through regulation and four overtime periods, leading to penalty kicks. However, even that wasn’t enough to crown a winner. Both squads had five players shoot a PK, but by the end of the round, scores by Saathoff and Jake Willis were matched by the Ravens’ Brendan Hoffman and Alberto Teran Porras.

With that came sudden death. First, Tonganoxie defender Marcus Titterington put the ball in the upper left corner for a score. Then, Esteban Rivas Solis matched him.

The next round pitted Chieftains freshman Evan Lott against Ravens junior West. Lott missed high and West followed it by putting one past THS goalie Truesdell to give MHMA the regional championship.

While the Ravens stormed the field, going nuts, the Chieftains were devastated. A once losing group had learned what it takes to win, and when Tonganoxie came up just short, the team’s players were moved to tears.

Said Willis: “We couldn’t finish but we gave it our all.”

It was true. And for that, Tonganoxie’s regional championship soccer match was the best of 2010.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.