By Chris Goltermann
Northgate teams experienced both sides of the emotional spectrum high school soccer can offer in pivotal Region 5-6A contests against Alexander that will factor into this year’s state playoff race.
As disappointing as a 2-1 loss in penalty kicks was for the Lady Vikings, in a game that got away after maintaining control for much of 95 minutes, a 2-1 victory for the Vikings was equally satisfying after responding from an early one-goal deficit in the first half on goals from Josh Burks and Noah Kvidt, the latter with less than 12 minutes to play.
The win kept Northgate’s boys unbeaten in region play at 5-0, and clinched a state playoff berth. From here on in, the focus is firmly on improving last year’s fourth-place finish.
“We still have Tri-Cities, Hughes and Mays (left), but it puts them in the driver’s seat,” said Northgate head coach Bryan Hicks.
The Cougars both dictated play early and scored within the opening 10 minutes. The 1-0 lead might have held through the next 30 if not for Burks hustle inside Alexander’s zone in the closing seconds of the first half.
He kept his momentum after pushing the ball forward inside the Cougars’ 16-yard box and the ball found its way back to the Viking midfielder alone while to the right of the goal.
From a sharp angle, Burks sliced a shot through in time to knot the score with just 8.7 seconds left on the clock.
It stayed that way for nearly another 30 minutes, with the two teams at one point trading shoves that produced a pair of Alexander yellow cards after a conflict in Alexander’s right corner escalated to include more than a handful of players from both teams.
Neither defense seemed ready to buckle after trading five-minute swings to begin the second half that
alternated in opposing defensive zones starting with Northgate on its heels from the kickoff.
But the Vikings took advantage of a free kick opportunity when midfielder Bryan Torres-Quiroz was hauled down by his jersey from about 35 yards out.
Northgate senior Keshev Laul didn’t hesitate with a laser that caught Alexander keeper John Michael Harbin high with his gloves, but a hefty rebound came right at the feet of an open Kvidt, who easily punched it in among a vast view of only twine.
Despite putting some pressure on second-half Viking keeper Sam Morgan, who continued to split time with starter Alan Fehn, Northgate made a concerted effort to keep play in Alexander’s zone, nearly putting another goal on the scoreboard from Erek Graham with two minutes left that was called back on an offsides call.
It was the opposite ending to that of the Lady Vikings, who seemed to be in full control of a 1-0 game midway through the second half. They did it without two players absent before losing defender Lizzy Grant for most of the first half after suffering some slight effects of dehydration.
Emily Adamczyk never stopped pushing for an opening goal up top, finally coming through on a perfectly executed through ball from teammate Elissa Lotter that sprung the Northgate striker on a breakaway.
But the team left enough of an opening for Alexander to get back in the game. Adamczyk pushed a PK attempt on the wrong side of the left post after teammate Jessica Wheeler was taken down in the box just 12 minutes into the second half.
It left an opening eight minutes later for Alexander senior Macey Hodge to tie the game on a hard shot from 20-plus yards out that handcuffed Northgate keeper Selma Bormann.
Bormann made up for the game-tying goal, stopping everything else that came her way, batting a corner kick serve out of the zone during the opening seconds of the ensuing 15-minute overtime period where both teams threatened, but couldn’t avoid penalty kicks.
In the GHSA’s new 1-2-2 format that had teammates attempting PKs on consecutive tries before alternating between schools, all 10 initial shooters found the net. Northgate backup keeper Abbie Anglin and Lady Vikings senior Hannah Sutherland both tried their best to come up with a stop to no avail.
Lotter’s sixth attempt for Northgate was hauled in by Alexander keeper Marianna Neau, setting up the game-winner for the Lady Cougars.
It was Northgate’s first region loss, falling to 4-1 while expecting to be heavily favored in each of its final three games. The Lady Vikings will need Alexander to lose twice in order to have a chance at a No. 1 seed, while now likely to finish second in the region.
“It is what it is,” Hicks said. “We missed a PK and they scored a goal we probably should have stopped. We just move on from here.”