Hold on: WHS boys soccer team tops Mankato East to advance to section finals
The Worthington boys soccer team withstood a furious attempt by Mankato East to win its Section 2AA semifinal game 1-0 on Thursday
WORTHINGTON -- The ball bounced around directly in front of the Worthington net as if it were in a pinball machine in the closing seconds of the Section 2AA boys soccer semifinal in Worthington Thursday night.
Fortunately for the Trojans, they were able to keep it out of their goal. And they escaped with a 1-0 victory over fourth-seeded Mankato East at Trojan Field to advance to the tournament championship.
Top-seeded Worthington will take on second-seeded New Prague Tuesday at New Prague High School for the right to advance to the Minnesota state tournament. The game will begin at 5 p.m. New Prague defeated third-seeded Marshall 2-1 in the other semifinal Thursday.
Worthington scored the only goal of its semifinal game with 25:26 remaining in the first half as junior forward Jonathan Banegas took a well-placed forward pass in the middle of the field and scored with seeming ease as East goalie Owen Quist vacated his position. Little did anyone know that that would be the last goal of the game.
A determined Mankato East Cougar team put consistent pressure on the Trojans over the final eight minutes of the second half. On a corner kick as the clock ticked down from 10 seconds, the Cougars pushed the ball in front of the WHS net. The ball lingered there for a few more seconds and was booted around by both teams. It was sent away as the buzzer sounded, signifying the end of the match.
The Trojans (16-2) haven’t had many tight contests at Trojan Field this fall, but this one was as tight as they come.
“I think we just stopped playing the way we did the first half. The first half I think we played very well, and in the second half we let ‘em hang in there with us,” said WHS head coach Juan Flores.”
The first half was fairly evenly played. Both teams had offensive opportunities. But the Trojans were a bit more active all over the field, ready to switch over from offense to defense (and vice-versa) on a dime. There was always a Trojan in position to intercept a Mankato East pass or pass the ball to a teammate to when in control.
Both teams had scoring chances early in the second half, and Worthington had some excellent ones. Bayron Echeverria, at 32:06, collided with Quist and fell to the turf while ready to take a shot six yards away from the New Ulm net, but there was no foul. Less than 26 minutes left to play, Banegas tried a point-blank shot near the goal that was saved by Quist. Seven minutes later, Banegas attempted a great shot and teammate Charles Saydee recovered it moments later and attempted another. It was a near miracle that neither shot resulted in a score.
In the closing seconds, Flores remembered one or two important games that got away from the Trojans in recent years.
“I just thought, all the flashbacks came back,” he testified.
“But our defense came through.”
As the Trojans walked off Trojan Field Thursday night, it was not yet known who they would play in the finals. Flores said he didn’t care.
“Either one, it’s a final. It’s a championship game. We gotta be ready for either one,” he said.
At the beginning of the year, the WHS mentor said the team might struggle at points this season as it regroups from key graduation losses. But now the team is 16-2 and looking like a winner.
The preseason goal, said Flores, was “for us to be competitive. We wanted to compete with everybody. The players stepped up and we’re going to New Prague on Tuesday. I’m proud of our team. We put in a lot of hard work and it’s paid off.
Mankato East 0 0 -- 0
Worthington 1 0 -- 1