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Eagles advance with 3-0 victory against Worthington

Matt Huss/Daily Globe Worthington's Kevin Coriolan (17) looks to control the ball as Southwest Christian's Nicholas Pfeifle (right) and Cody Huisken (21) defend during Saturday's Section 2A boys' soccer tournament game in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- The most successful season in Worthington boys' soccer history came to a sudden and frustrating end Saturday night.

Rob Van Hofwegen scored the eventual winner just 3:05 into the game to lead sixth-seeded Southwest Christian to a dominant 3-0 victory over third-seeded Worthington in the second round of the Section 2A playoffs.

"It's disappointing, but what else can you do?" Worthington coach Vilath Lovan said. "No matter what, no matter how many wins we had, we haven't achieved anything. We have to get to the next round."

Worthington (8-2-3) suffered its lone loss of the regular season at home Sept. 23 against SWC. The 4-2 defeat came just three weeks after the Trojans earned a 3-2 road victory over the Eagles.

Worthington eventually earned its highest seed in program history and a first-round bye.

SWC, which defeated Fairmont 7-0 in the first round, will host seventh-seeded Mankato West on Tuesday.

The Eagles (11-4-0) suffered a 3-2 loss at home against Mankato West in their home opener but appear to be playing their best soccer at the right time.

They've won six consecutive games, including Saturday night's heated battle against Worthington.

"Our best games like this have been with Worthington," SWC coach Leland Vanderaa said. "I don't know about physical, so much, but real intense and tight and with a lot of energy."

The Trojans came out of the gate strong, controlling possession and putting a shot on goal in the first two minutes. But the Eagles struck quickly on a counter attack.

From deep in the corner, Tyler Van Schepen fired a crossing pass into the middle of the box, where Van Hofwegen leaped and headed it past Worthington goalkeeper Derik Verdoorn.

"That was big for us because Worthington often will score an early, quick goal against us," Vanderaa said. "That kind of turned the tide and had them playing catch-up instead of us."

Van Schepen's fourth goal in his past two games highlighted a first half in which SWC dominated possession and twice came within inches of adding to its lead.

With 27:10 remaining in the first half, SWC's Nicholas Pfeifle fired a shot off the hands of Verdoorn, who came well out of the net. Staring at a wide-open goal, Steven Talsma fired a shot that caromed off the post.

"I was mad; I was yelling," Talsma said. "I was thinking, 'Just get the next one.' It was motivation, I guess."

Less than 10 minutes later, Verdoorn came out of the net and stuffed Talsma on a breakaway. The rebound found the foot of Pfeifle, who fired just high over the open net.

Talsma's chances accounted for two of four shots on goal in the period for SWC, which held Worthington to just one.

"It was hustle," Vanderaa said. "Worthington definitely has better foot skills than we do, so we just have to be on their case and never let up because they'll score two goals on you just like that."

Less than eight minutes into the second half, the Eagles struck again. Van Schepen corralled a deflection off a corner kick and punched it into the back of the net, giving SWC a two-goal lead.

More than 10 minutes later, with 18:18 remaining in regulation, Worthington finally appeared to break through and score on SWC's stingy defense.

Sophomore defender Jairo Mendoza sent a long, high pass down the field, and Thanh Nguyen, who was moved from defender to forward in the second half, raced under it.

The junior beat two defenders to the ball and punched it past Kaiser DeKam, but the goal was disallowed after officials ruled that Nguyen was offsides.

"I have no comment on that one," Lovan said. "I don't want to blow my head off."

Four minutes after Verdoorn made back-to-back saves, including one to rob Talsma for a third time, SWC's junior forward finally got on the board.

With his back to the goal, Pfeifle grazed the ball with his head, sending it behind him toward Verdoorn, who sprinted forward to corral the ball but missed.

Talsma raced toward the net and calmly tapped the ball into the goal to give SWC a 3-0 lead with 11:05 remaining.

In the midst of being shut out for the first time all season, the Trojans' frustrations were apparent.

Worthington assistant coach Mike Kangkong received his second yellow card and was sent off amid a rousing ovation from some Worthington fans.

Less than two minutes later, Worthington junior defender Max Pierson received a red card and was sent off after attempting a blatant and vicious body check on Pfeifle.

"They want to make it a big rivalry, but we try not to because we'll just get too hyped up and get way out of control," Van Schepen said. "But we stayed in control enough to pull through."

Verdoorn made seven saves for SWC, and DeKam stopped all four shots that came his way.

"We have a lot of quickness, I think, and it's all about hustle," Van Hofwegen said. "We just came out and hustled tonight and scored some goals.

"I think it was all about hustle."