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October 9, 2013

Thrilling finishes: Northview beats TH North on penalty kicks; TH South rallies to top Vincennes Lincoln

TERRE HAUTE — Northview goalkeeper Chandler Reeves was fired up.

Northview had surprisingly forced penalty kicks against favored Terre Haute North in Tuesday's Class 2A Terre Haute North boys soccer sectional opener. Was Reeves nervous?

Heck no. As he went out to participate in the nerve-jangling PKs, he said to the match officials, “Isn't this the most exciting game?”

It was exciting for the Knights and devastating for the Patriots. After a 1-1 regulation draw, Northview won on penalty kicks 3-1 to advance to Saturday's sectional championship.

Northview will play Terre Haute South in the title match. The Braves advanced in the sectional nightcap via a Grant Hammons goal with 4:58 left to beat Vincennes Lincoln 2-1 in a come-from-behind effort.

“When it came down to crunch time, when the touches mattered, we did it,” South coach Aaron Nicoson said.

• TH North 1, Northview 1 (Northview 3-1 on PKs) — It was only the second victory for Northview over North in the history of the series. That alone made it a big win. That it happened at the sectional made it even sweeter for the Knights.

“It was pretty crazy. PKs are the hardest thing for a keeper to do,” Reeves said. “That's only the second time we've beaten North so it's huge for us.”

Reeves was carried off the field by his jubilant teammates. The roots of the win were planted early on.

Northview elected to pack it in defensively against North and try to counter-attack from it. Not much came of it in the scoring chance department for Northview — the Knights had just one first-half shot — but Northview often had nine defenders in the vicinity of North's box and it frustrated the Patriots' attempts at a breakthrough.

The scoreless draw held up until the 8:28 mark of the first half. North began to attack from the flanks, finding space on the byline, which forced Northview to knock the ball away for Patriots' corner kicks.

The first of those corners bore fruit. North's David DeSantis lofted a corner to the left side of the North goal. Jacob Wilson appeared to get a head on the ball, but it was Noah Brewster who glanced it home to get North on the board with a 1-0 lead.

Northview stuck with its plan and its counter-attack proved menacing to start the second half. With 37:21 to go, Mark Underwood broke free through the North defense and beat North keeper Tyler Zigler one-on-one for an equalizing goal.

Miscommunication in North's back four was nearly proved disastrous for the Patriots in regulation. Northview played inspired for much of the second half, creating several chances, without ever getting a solid shot off.

“We could see right off the bat that our center backs weren't communicating very well,” North coach John Welch said. “They did a great job of exploiting that. They have great speed.”

North (7-8-3) began to create more chances when it attacked wide via Damon Prifogle on the left side, but couldn't mesh the cross with the finish to get the breakthrough.

The last 10 minutes of regulation was frantic. Northview's K.J. Thomas appeared to get bumped in the box with five minutes to go on a shot, but nothing was called. North had a 17-3 edge in shots at the end of regulation, but extra time beckoned.

Northview coach Ron Kierknicki credited the Knights' “tiki taka” style for the Knights' success, a precise passing style predicated on getting the ball on the players' feet.

“We had to find resolve. We had to find a way to get the ball back on to our feet. We knew we could beat the back four with speed. Once we got the tiki taka moving, that's where we caused some issues,” Kiernicki said.

Northview (3-9-2) created the better chances in extra time. Underwood and Thomas both had breakaways, but were stymied by North's pacier back line, notably Brandon McInerney, who scuttled Thomas's chance. North's best extra time chance came and went when Vincent Eldred's shot went wide in the second period. DeSantis also had a shot go wide on a deflection.

To penalty kicks it went. North's Jared Prifogle and Northview's Underwood each made their attempts to start.

Then it went wrong for North. Luke Nelson's attempt was high. Antoney Bryan then put his PK in the left side to put Northview up 2-1. Reeves then saved Dominic Hendericks' attempt to the right. Thomas made his PK for Northview to make it 3-1 and put the Patriots in a make-or-break situation. Damon Prifogle's attempt struck the crossbar and Northview had its victory.

“We've had trouble finishing all year and that included the PKs,” Welch said. “We have to give credit to Northview.”

• TH South 2, Vincennes Lincoln 1 — South coach Aaron Nicoson calls his Braves a “comeback team” and that's exactly what they needed against the Alices.

The Braves won the regular season meeting against Vincennes Lincoln 2-0, but the Alices were tougher to crack this time.

There was very little between the Braves and Alices, particularly in an evenly-matched first half that featured just five combined shots.

The second half was more lively and the Alices quickly broke the deadlock. Vincennes Lincoln's Connor Mercer's pass found Adam Klein in the penalty box and he slid it past South goalkeeper Keaton Vanwey to put the Alices up 1-0.

Vincennes Lincoln had most of the chances for the next 20 minutes as forwards Jared Suanes and Pablo Veintamilla caused headaches for South's defenders.

South broke the pattern when it began to play the ball long through the middle. Graham Wrin nearly equalized for South at the 20-minute mark on one of the Braves' breakthroughs.

“The second half we said we needed to press harder and that's what we did,” Nicoson said. “We needed the simple plays that help you create goals. We got one off a set piece corner.”

The equalizer came via a corner kick with 18:38 left in the game. South's Caaveh Siahmakoun delivered a perfect corner from the left side that found Rory Sommerville just inside the 6-yard box. Sommerville bodied it goalward and Alices' goalkeeper Grant Hunt couldn't find the handle.

Vincennes Lincoln created corners after Sommerville's goal — five of them — but couldn't convert any of them. South's chances weren't as plentiful until just under five minutes remained in regulation.

Hammons was part of a three-man South attack on the edge of the penalty box, along with Wrin and Matt Green. Hammons attempted a shot that fooled Hunt as it appeared it was going to go to the right side of the goal off Hammons' foot.

But the Hammons kick went through the legs of two Alices and trickled left. Hunt was wrong-footed and the ball trickled past him to give the Braves a 2-1 lead they would not relinquish.

There was no deflection. It was just a shot that fooled nearly everyone.

“That was a good feeling,” said Hammons on the game-winner,. “It was perfect [off] my foot.”

Nicoson, a former goalkeeper, could see how Hunt was caught off-guard by Hammons' shot.

“He's really good at hitting it to the outside and left,” Nicoson said. “Speaking as a keeper, when you move for that ball and it starts curving, it fools you. When it's wet like it is, it doesn't behave like it should.”

Northview and South played a scoreless draw during the regular season. Nicoson expects Saturday's title match to be a very tough affair.

“It's going to be a rough game. It was a rough game in season. When you have a sectional title at stake? It'll be knockdown, dragout. It'll be just like a North-South game,” Nicoson said.

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