Boys soccer: Top teams WHS, Austin battle to a draw
BY AARON HAGEN The Globe WORTHINGTON -- There was definitely hype surrounding Saturday night's boys soccer game featuring two undefeated teams. And it didn't disappoint. Worthington and Austin battled to a 3-3 tie in a game that featured an atmos...
BY AARON HAGEN
WORTHINGTON -- There was definitely hype surrounding Saturday night’s boys soccer game featuring two undefeated teams.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Worthington and Austin battled to a 3-3 tie in a game that featured an atmosphere that was more indicative of a playoff game than a mid-season match.
“I was expecting this game coming out like this, without a doubt,” Worthington senior Edwin Hernandez said. “These guys are good. We saw them play last year. They were good last year and we knew they were going to be good again still. We tied them, that’s good actually.”
Austin entered the game ranked in the top 10 in the state and sporting a 6-0 record while playing in the tough Big 9 Conference. The Trojans are just outside the top 10, and came in 9-0.
“I’m not going to lie, we are happy, 3-3 to a Big 9, that’s a big accomplishment to tie them. Coming off of sections last year and losing to Mankato West and playing a hard team again this season, it’s pretty good tying them. It would have been better to win, but we have to work on other stuff in practices,” Hernandez said. “That kind of shows us a little that we’re meant to go up there and be ranked. Especially because of the teams they play and they haven’t lost any games until they tied today. That’s pretty good.”
WHS had its chance to put the Packers away. The Trojans had a 2-0 lead and a 3-1 advantage, but Austin rallied to tie the score and force overtime.
“They are a good team and we wanted to see how good we are playing with them. They are a top team in the state and we feel like we are too. A 3-3 result is good for us, but then bad because we were up 3-1 at one point,” WHS junior Chris Cerda said. “We got ahead of ourselves. We were too hyped and that’s why they are a good team because they never back down from a challenge.”
The two teams were scoreless in the first half. But both had chances. Austin’s Kevin Ortiz had a ball bounce off the post and Worthington’s Jon Keodouangsy had a shot miss wide right on a breakaway. Each team had a good look on a free kick, but each time Austin’s Josh Brehmer and Worthington’s Sander Diaz made the save as the teams were scoreless after the first half.
“In the first half, we were struggling. I think we were on our heels most of the time. Austin applied a lot of pressure,” WHS head coach Smitty Ektnitphong said. “We knew that Austin was going to bring more into the second half. They know what they did to us wasn’t good enough. That’s why I challenged my guys. We got by the first half, but we cannot do the same thing because if we go in there and do the same thing, we’re going to get creamed. The kids started to realize they had to play at their potential, which they did.”
WHS got on the board first six minutes and 48 seconds into the second half as Keodouangsy settled a pass from Hernandez and found the right side of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Less than seven minutes later, the Trojans had a corner kick. The ball was headed twice before finding Cerda’s feet. With a sore leg, the right-footed Cerda used his left foot and pushed the ball into the net.
“I’m kind of hurt, which is why when I scored the goal, I kicked it with my other foot. I didn’t expect it to go in, but it went in,” he said. “Honestly, I thought I ended the game with that goal. I was pretty happy about it.”
But Austin came back six minutes later as Lonyjera Okal scored on a free kick to cut the deficit to one goal.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with both teams and the attitude,” Ektnitphong said. “The respect for them to us and respect for us to them is huge. To see two good teams go out and battle for the W, we settle with a tie and we’re OK with it. The reason why is we thought we had them at moments. At 3-1, they didn’t lay back down, they keep coming right at you. They made some plays and we didn’t. We have to give a lot of credit to Austin. They came in here and we expected it to be just what we saw tonight.”
With just less than 13 minutes remaining in regulation, WHS added another goal. Keodouangsy scored on a penalty kick, giving the Trojans a 3-1 lead.
“I was kind of nervous because it was penalty and I rarely make penalties, so I’m surprised I made them. It was nice just to score one in this game,” said Keodouangsy, who scored his 16th and 17th goal this season. “My midfield, Victor Alvarez and Edwin Hernandez, they assist me a lot. They know where I’m at all the time and they know I can finish them.”
But there was still a lot of time left for the Packers.
“With 13 or 14 minutes left to go, you can’t take it for granted,” Ektnitphong said. “The good teams, they didn’t want to lay down. We have to learn to connect the ball and use the time to be able to put in some sort of attack and maybe finish. This teaches me that two goals with 15 minutes to go is not good enough against good teams.”
Ortiz scored a goal after a long run op the left side for Austin.
“We were getting a little nervous, but you can’t show the other team that you’re getting nervous or they will keep scoring on you, so we tried to keep it,” Keodouangsy said.
With just under six minutes remaining, Henry Tolbert scored the game-tying goal off a rebound.
“We knew that the game was going to be a good one, so we hyped it up,” Cerda said. “But the time was going so slow. When we were up 3-1, we wanted it to end, but it never did.”
Each team had a chance to score the game-winner late, but fitting for two unbeaten teams, it went into overtime. Again, the teams had chances in the extra time, but couldn’t come away with a goal as the game ended in a tie.
For Worthington, being able to compete with one of the state’s best was a positive on the night.
“It proves that we can play against the top teams in the state,” Cerda said. “We just proved that we hang with the big boys. We’re ready for any challenge and we just proved it.”
Austin 0 3 0 -- 3Worthington 0 3 0 -- 3