The boys and girls soccer seasons both came to a bitter end in the first round of the Section 3AAA tournaments on Oct. 10. The boys, ranked as the sixth seed faced off against the three seeded Park …
The boys and girls soccer seasons both came to a bitter end in the first round of the Section 3AAA tournaments on Oct. 10. The boys, ranked as the sixth seed faced off against the three seeded Park of Cottage Grove Wolfpack falling 5-1. The girls received the four seed and they hosted the five seed Apple Valley Eagles at Todd Field where they fell in heartbreaking fashion, 2-1 in overtime.
“We played with them for about 55 minutes,” said Boys Head Coach Jamie Swanson. “You can tell they got a little bit nervous and tentative at times because of the energy that we had after we scored that goal. They were on their heels for the next five or six minutes, but then that next one went in and it kind of took a lot of the wind out of our sails.”
Swanson was referring to the game tying goal 3:04 into the second half. That goal changed the momentum of the game in a big way for several minutes, but Hastings could not capitalize. Park drew first blood halfway through the first period and the Raiders did a great job fighting them off for the next 25 plus minutes.
“Our seniors really stepped up,” Swanson paused for a moment to maintain his composure. “It's… it’s a talented group of seniors that we have, they are a gritty group of seniors and they held it together as long as they could. Park was just a very good team who could attack you from a lot of different angles with different players but their center forward, he got the best of us in that second half and that was the difference.”
Another key difference for Hastings was the lack of winning the 50-50 balls, balls that we kicked from the keepers on either end that determined key possessions and field position all night long.
“It wasn't just a thing that was tonight, it was an ongoing issue winning the 50-50 balls and just being able to judge the ball in the air. Then not just winning that ball but finding a player off that ball. So, it's like, you win it, and then you do something with it. That is actually a tough, tough skill to learn. The good teams do it, and the teams that have to fight for those are the ones that are that are always battling for that second ball, and we don't want to always be battling for that second ball,” explained Swanson.
“We just told the seniors that we appreciate them. It was a small group, who dwindled as the years went on, but these kids stuck with it, and they were passionate. They were outstanding leaders and just good people. When you have a group of seniors like that leading in that way, it does always rub off in different ways on the rest of the kids. So, the final words were we're saying goodbye to the seniors, but you guys have learned a lot from your upperclassmen this year and learned a lot from this game and, take the experience and use it to your advantage for next year. Those were my parting words tonight,” added Swanson.
The girl’s game was high energy from start to finish. Apple Valley kept the Raiders on their toes logging 24 shots on goal to the Raiders 11. Senior Keeper Riley Mancl did a great job keeping the Raiders in the game all night long. She only had to make a couple of difficult, ESPN like saves throughout the night because her defense did a great job protecting her.
Apple Valley took the lead in the first half, but Hastings never gave up. They pushed and pushed the whole game until they finally tied it late in the second half. Sienna Sanchez hit the white lace off of a pass from Ellie Magnus to tie the game. Despite their best efforts, the defenses did a great job on both sides protecting their keeper and forcing overtime.
With just under three minutes expired in overtime Apple Valley was carrying the ball into the Raiders end of the field and Hastings was on a solid chase. This is where things became very questionable. The officials had not been making this kind of call all night and the call they made changed the game. Even Apple Valley fans were questioning the call after the game, but like any team that benefits from a bad call, you’re not going to turn it down.
Both players made contact with each other, both went down to the turf at the same time, the replay looked as though it was incidental contact because they both hit the ball as they fell, but the officials called for a free kick for Apple Valley from the 25-yard line. That was all Apple Valley needed to end the Raiders season.
The first question asked of coaches after every contest is simple, what went well or right in that contest.
“Resiliency. We stuck to the game plan. Our second game plan when the first one got taken away by their tactics. We changed some things up and it worked for us, and we just kept pounding and kept pounding and, and things went well. We played really smart, we took our chances,” explained Head Coach Paul Armstrong.
“I told the girls that that was one of the better games we've played all season. To lose like that. It’s just…” Armstrong said as he paused to contain himself.
“Sometimes it's just soccer,” Armstrong continued. “Again, we were smart. We moved the ball. We played very smart soccer, and we started playing hard at the end and yeah, I'm very proud of the girls. They played very well.”
It was clear that Coach was not happy with the call, and he was right to be upset, you never want to be in a position that a call from an official can end your season, especially when Mancl was a brick wall in goal.
The girls lose nine seniors this year and it is a shame that they were bounced so quick from playoffs, they definitely deserved to win that game. The nine seniors are great humans and hopefully, like the boys, the way those nine conducted themselves on and off the pitch, hopefully that rubbed off on the underclassmen.
With the season over for both teams, I’d like to take a moment to thank those 14 seniors for making me feel welcome on the sidelines, for being great people to cover and to wish them the best. My customary message to these kids is, go do great things, and there is no doubt, they can do just that.