Benefield: Heartbreak for Montgomery boys in NCS soccer title game loss
LAFAYETTE - A feisty attacker being held in check, his head down, pulling away from the taller player who won't let go. The taller player wraps up the attacker, arms tight. The attacker can't stop crying.
It's not a foul or part of the game. It's after the whistle, when the scoreboard says Home: 1, Visitor: 0.
This is what heartbreak looks like.
Sophomore Alan “Momo” Soto could not be consoled Saturday night after the North Bay League champion Montgomery Vikings lost the Division 2 North Coast Section boys soccer final in the second golden goal overtime period, falling 1-0 to the tournament's No. 2 seed, Acalanes High School. Team captain Carson Wyatt held on to his teammate tight, but Soto's churning energy, which created so many chances ,was still roiling after the final whistle.
“We were more determined,” he said, his face still tear-streaked. “It was just who had more left.”
The Dons, playing on their home field, knocked home the game winner after 98 minutes of scoreless soccer, sending the No. 5 seed Vikings home with second-place medals around their necks.
It was still 0-0 after 80 minutes of regulation. It was still 0-0 after one overtime period that would have ended the moment one team scored. It did end, eight minutes into the second overtime period when Acalanes senior Gabe Singer found the net after yet another mammoth throw-in from junior Nick Schirmer.
One too many.
Vikings coach Jon Schwan told his boys they gave the Dons, a team that clearly used throw-ins as set pieces from the muscle of Schirmer, one too many chances for the junior to launch the ball into the box.
Elation on one side, players mobbed by fans who flooded the field. Tears and offers of comfort on the other. Only a few feet separated the Dons from the Vikings at the whistle, but they were worlds apart.
It was Soto who got the Vikings closest to victory, hitting the right post with eight minutes to play in the second half after receiving a pass from junior Bryan Rosales and fending off two defenders to get a shot off.
“I got good acceleration on a good ball from Bryan,” he said. “I lost my balance and it didn't end up in the goal.”
It was not for lack of trying. Soto provided a spark for the Vikings all night long, but the Dons came up with an answer for Montgomery's speedy attack.
Rosales was everywhere for the Vikings, controlling the tempo in the midfield and using deft passing to create chances in the Dons' defensive third. But the Vikings, who averaged 2. 5 goals per game in their 19-5-3 season, could not get one.
“Bryan was outstanding,” Schwan said. “Especially as the game wore on. We were able to settle the game down.”
The Dons could not match the Vikings' attacking speed, but did a solid job of slowing down the Vikings attack, forcing back passes.
Still, there isn't a team around that can keep the Vikings' offensive weapons entirely silent.
“We definitely had some looks,” Schwan said.
Dons coach Paul Curtis credited the Vikings' pressure with pushing the home team out of their normal style of play. The Vikings forced the Dons' defensive line to give up the ball faster, which often put the ball in the air instead of on the ground.
“They are an outstanding team,” Curtis said. “They have a ton of quality players.”
The Vikings' best chance of the first half came from a combination between Soto and junior Jay Schlesinger.
Soto chipped a pass over the Dons' defensive line and the speedy Schlesinger ran onto it, slotting a shot that barely missed to the right.
A free kick early in the first half from the foot of junior midfield Wyatt forced a tremendous save from the Dons' goalkeeper, junior Luke Deham.
Vikings sophomore Calvin Perkins got a good look in the second half after a pass from Rosales but after fending off two defenders, Perkins could not get the ball past Deham.
Still, the play resulted in a corner kick for the Vikings and another chance.
But it was Soto's shot off the post that was closest, and probably the one that will sting the longest.
As the Dons sang victory songs a few yards away, Schwan tried to console the inconsolable.
“You guys made it to the last game,” he said.
But there was not much more to say. Except that they vowed to be back.
“We're going to be back next year,” Schwan said. “We'll be back.”
Soto, still undone even as the crowd was filing out of the stadium, said the same.
“We are going to be determined,” he said. “I'm not going to able to lose again. That's not going to happen.”
The Vikings now have a full year to find a way.
You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at Kerry.firstname.lastname@example.org and 707-526-8671, on Twitter @benefield and Instagram @kerry.benefield. Podcasting on iTunes and SoundCloud “Overtime with Kerry Benefield.”
Columnist, The Press Democrat
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