Shadle Park’s boys soccer team was like the boxer who absorbs blow after blow only to somehow stay on his feet and deliver a Rocky-esque knockout punch before the final bell.
As a result, the Highlanders (5-0, 3-0 with eight points) inexplicably remained unbeaten following Wednesday night’s 2-1 shootout victory over host University.
U-Hi thoroughly dominated regulation and controlled much of the two overtimes, but when it came down to the flip-a-coin, match-ending penalty kick series, Shadle goaltender Willie Northcott came up with one last save that set up Andy Largent’s winning boot.
“Player of the game,” said Shadle coach Matt Leonard of Northcott, who turned back all but one of the barrage of shots the Titans launched during 80 minutes of regulation play. “Willie Northcott saved the game for us. He kept us in it. He and Kyle Wirtz in the back and Andy on top were the money makers.”
With the shootout triumph, the Highlanders are third by a point behind Mt. Spokane and Central Valley, which both won easily on Wednesday. Shadle plays the Bears Friday at CV in yet another important match in the first third of the GSL season.
U-Hi had a shots-on-goal advantage of around 12-2 in the first half, but most of the attempts either went long over the top or fell wide of the mark.
Shadle mounted no attack until the 38th minute. Just before intermission, Keith Realing of the Titans launched a laser from 40 yards out front that sailed over Northcott into the top of the goal.
“We had the ball in our attacking third for maybe 5 minutes total,” said Leonard. “We were not challenging balls and were giving up every 50-50 ball in the middle. Obviously, we go into the half frustrated.”
But, Leonard said, the team went back to basics gained some confidence and momentum. Still, the shot differential remained nearly the same in the second half, nearly all U-Hi.
A couple of Highlanders attacks were thwarted by offsides and Northcott made an exceptional save of a Realing opportunity.
Then Largent, who picked up his eighth of Shadle’s 15 goals this spring, was hauled down on the top of the 18-yard mark. He converted the first of his two free-kick attempts in the final 7 minutes, drilling a low shot through U-Hi’s defensive wall.
“We do that a lot in practice,” he said. “Just keep it low, hit it hard and give it a chance to put it in.”
After the two scoreless 5-minute overtimes and a total 90 minutes of action, the outcome came down to each team sending five players out with everyone watching, to go one-on-one against the keepers to try and settle the outcome.
“You’ve got to react,” said Northcott of his responsibility. “You just hope.”
U-Hi scored first and Titans goalie Clint Moquist made a save. Northcott followed with a save and Shadle players scored back-to-back for the tie.
The Titans missed wide right, Moquist and Northcott each had saves before Largent scored the winner.
“This is our third straight shootout against U-Hi,” Largent said. “We won when I was a sophomore, last year they beat us and this year we got them. It wasn’t our best game, but we fought it out.”
It was a big game, acknowledged Leonard, but added there are still tough games ahead.
U-Hi coach Kevin Houston said his team executed its game plan well, moving the ball the way it wanted.
“In the second half we came out and I think we got too cute for ourselves,” he said. “We were dominating but didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. We allowed them a glimmer of hope and they capitalized on their one opportunity to score.”
Elsewhere in the GSL, visiting Mt. Spokane (5-0, 3-0) scored three times in the first half of its 5-1 win over rival Mead (1-3, 1-2). Keith Kirsch had three assists, including to Drew Hill, who took a pass and headed it in. Jeremy Sink scored twice. … CV (4-1, 3-0) won 4-0 at West Valley, with four different players scoring. Zach Chesher scored unassisted for the third goal of the first half and assisted Jay Vela for the Bears’ second-half score. Vela also had an assist. …Cheney (4-1, 2-1), one of four teams tied for fourth place, beat Lewis and Clark for the first time in school history, 4-0 at home. Four different Blackhawks scored, including Ben Parker, who tallied his fourth of league play. … Host East Valley (3-1, 2-1) blanked Rogers (2-3, 1-2) 6-0. Matt Miller had two goals and an assist in the second half and Ryan Orwick also scored twice and had an assist as the Knights midfield controlled the match. …Ferris (2-2, 2-1) also won 6-0, over visiting North Central. Kyle Yonago had a goal and assist in the first half and another to start a two-goal outburst in the first 10 minutes of the second half. His brother, Taylor, scored a goal and had two assists, and Eric Hauck scored twice in the second half. …Gonzaga Prep (1-2, 1-2) won 3-0 at home against Clarkston. Max Mean tapped a loose ball in front of the net out to Scott Legel, who scored Prep’s first goal from 15 yards out. Mean scored in the second half and Legel, who had a quality game distributing the ball, added an assist, to Lucas Witkowski.
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