Boys soccer advances to zone final, state tournament
The hard part is over.
The Douglas High School boys soccer team defeated the Carson Senators 3-2 Wednesday in a semifinal game of the Class 4A Northern Zone playoffs, earning a spot in the zone championship and, more importantly, the state tournament.
The Tigers, the regular-season champions of Division II, will face Sparks, the regular-season champions of Division I and a 1-0 winner over Reno in the other semifinal Wednesday, today at 10 a.m. at Carson High School for bragging rights in the north. Both teams are automatically in the state tournament, scheduled for next week at Carson.
“I said to them (after the game) that the final is fun because the way the competition is organized, you go to state if you go to the zone final,” Douglas coach Mike Robinson said. “The zone final is just a celebration for both teams for making it to the state tournament.”
Douglas, the defending zone champion, enters today’s final with a 17-1-2 record. Sparks enters with a 14-3-2 record.
The Tigers attacked the Carson goal with emotion and reckless abandon early in what would prove to be a very entertaining first half. And, they never let up.
The first good scoring opportunity came in the third minute. Right fullback Caleb Currance came up on a clear ball and blasted a shot from 40 yards out. The shot dipped quickly over the head of Carson goalie Liam Boyer, who was caught off his line, but sailed inches over the cross bar and smacked off the goal’s supports in the back.
In the 11th minute, Dylan Sheridan sent a cross from the right side into the box, but the ball skimmed off Adam Kincaid’s head and went wide left. It was vintage Douglas soccer in the opening stanza, good interior passing, good work on the outsides and good attacks and overlapping runs into the box.
“Unfortunately, we’ve started most of our games like that but don’t score,” Robinson said. “Soccer can be as pretty as you want it to be but if you don’t score it doesn’t matter.”
Douglas broke the ice in the 32nd minute on a play which featured great hustle, positioning and execution.
The Tigers worked the ball out well from the fullbacks to the midfielders. Jeremy Louthan eventually played a nice square ball out to the right side to Kevin Rohrbough, who smacked a shot off a Carson defender. The ball ricocheted off the defender toward the end line, and was rolling hard enough to go out of bounds for a Douglas corner kick.
Everybody on the field gave up on the play except Dave Griboski and Dane Eiteneier. Griboski chased the ball down and, sliding, cut the ball back into the box where Eiteneier, finding some open space, directed the ball with his head into the back of the net.
Carson, which had generated just three shots and two crosses in the opening 33 minutes compared to 13 shots and five crosses by Douglas, tied the game two minutes later when Chris Gentine finished on a big push into the box created by Jeff Johnson.
Douglas, which outshot Carson 16-5 by the end of the half, had one more golden scoring opportunity in the 39th minute. Griboski chased down another free ball deep down in the right side of the box and crossed it back into the goal mouth, where Shane Hennessy-York had perfect position. Hennessy-York volleyed a one-hopper off the crossbar and then headed the rebound at the Carson goalie.
Boyer was forced to make seven saves and come up with seven other keeper balls in the first half while Douglas goalie Kevin Gwinn touched the ball just five times.
The first half was characterized by numerous open-field runs down the middle. Douglas lost its composure for a few minutes following Carson’s goal, but eventually got back into its controlled passing style.
Douglas recaptured the lead four minutes into the second half.
Carson cleared out a Douglas corner kick from the left side. Currance caught up with the ball in the right midfield and quickly sent it back into the box. The pass caught the Carson defense, which was trying to move up, napping and Chance Supko raced behind it, onsides, just as Currance played the ball ahead. Supko and Boyer got to the ball at the same time, but Supko worked it free and touched it into the left side of an open net.
Supko’s goal wasn’t without controversy. Did he wrench the ball away from the Carson keeper after he already had a hand on top of the ball?
“I thought Liam had possession of the ball,” Carson coach Rudi Losche said. “He had the ball stopped, it looked like the Douglas forward kicked the ball out of his hands. The linesman ruled he had possession, but the center ref over ruled him.”
Supko had two other balls that went into the net disallowed. The first was at the end of the first half when the center referee’s whistle, blown for both offsides and the end of play, came as the ball was swishing into the back of the net. The second was in the middle of the second half.
Douglas extended the lead to 3-1 in the 68th minute when Rohrbough lofted a shot from way out on the right side over the Carson keeper and into the net.
Carson cut the lead to 3-2 with four minutes remaining when Andrei Losche drilled a direct free kick from 20 yards out into the left side of the net. Gwinn was shielded on the shot by his five-man wall and never moved for it.
The goal produced a big momentum swing and suddenly Douglas, which had controlled the game’s tempo throughout, was on the defensive.
Carson nearly tied the game in the 77th minute when a corner kick from the left side resulted in two quality headers from close range on goal. Gwinn batted the first one away and Currance finally cleared the second one out of bounds to the right side.
“Our congratulations go to Douglas, they played well,” said Losche, whose team beat Reed in the quarterfinals. “I thought we came out a little flat. We gave everything we had at Reed and it’s hard to put two games in a row together like that.”
Douglas finished with a 26-9 advantage in shots on goal.