Gering girls to play for district championship: Bulldogs need overtime to top Bearcats in B-8 semifinal, play at Holdrege today for state berth
     2014-05-08      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen
Photo by Philip Eckerberg/for the Citizen - Gering sophomore Morgan Smith (No. 2) tries to take the ball from Scottsbluff senior Kayla Pierce during the district semifinal at Gering Tuesday night. The game went into double over time and saw the Lady Bulldogs emerge the victor 2-1. Gering will play in the finals at Holdrege on Thursday.  
Soccer fans worldwide might be accustomed to seeing teams waste away the final seconds of the first part in a mandatory, two-period overtime to prepare for the second extra period.

Don’t tell the Gering girls’ team that those few final seconds are garbage time, though. Not with a berth in the District B-8 championship game at stake.

With the score tied at 1-all Tuesday night and time running down in the first extra 10-minute period at Memorial Stadium, the Bulldogs raced into position after they were awarded a corner kick.

Senior corner specialist Kelsea Prieels, with time ticking to under 10 seconds, got into position, raised her hand quickly and booted the ball squarely in front of the Scottsbluff goal, where senior Laettner Blanco was waiting to kick the ball into the goal for a 2-1 lead.

The Bulldogs then clamped down on defense in the second overtime, with Blanco making several stops on Scottsbluff sophomore scoring machine Kelli Wentz, and Gering earned the B-8 semifinal victory 2-1.

“Kelsea ran over there quick, the girls got in position like they were supposed to in front of the net,” said an elated Gering coach Lisa Freeburg, hoarse from what she said was the emotion of the period-ending fury.

“They knew that we would get it off quickly, and I was hoping that the quickness of it wouldn’t allow their defense to mark up.”

“Give them credit for getting that goal in right at the end of the first half of overtime,” Scottsbluff coach Chad Larson said. “That was clutch. They were hurrying, I don’t know if we were sleeping or what, but they executed it well and that is all it takes, one play like that.”

The win puts the No. 2 seeded Bulldogs (8-9) into the district finals for a third straight year against Holdrege. The No. 1 seeded Dusters (10-5) earned their championship game berth at home Tuesday with a 2-0 win over Kearney Catholic (4-7).

Gering, which defeated Holdrege at the Landers Memorial Soccer Complex in 2012 and lost to the host Dusters last year in district finales, will look to avenge last year’s 2-1 road setback today (Thursday) when the teams meet at 3 p.m. for the B-8 title and berth into the new Class B sub-state bracket.

“Right now, we’re just going to enjoy the moment and then tomorrow (Wednesday) we’ll get back after it,” Freeburg said in preparing for today’s district final.

In the fourth meeting between Gering and Scottsbluff (6-12) – all played in the past 25 days, with the Bearcats winning the first two before the Bulldogs scored a 2-0 win at the Landers Complex on April 28 – all three scores came on corner kicks.

Scottsbluff scored the first half’s only goal when junior Aubree Ford pulled in senior Celeste Calderon’s corner shot and drove in the score with 10:08 left before halftime.

“We felt good, we felt confident and we thought we played a really good first half and were getting it down on their end,” Larson said. “When you force Kelli to shoot from way outside, that’s a notch to them. She can usually hit those, but they knocked them down and so we tried to get it more in the middle.”

After the teams remained scoreless the rest of the first half, Gering struck with game-equalizing goal of its own just 48 seconds into the second half. Prieels shot into a large pack in front of the goal, and the ball rebounded off a Scottsbluff player for an own-goal.

For the next 39 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, the Bulldogs locked down on defense and allowed the Bearcats few chances of finding an open shot.

“We had to focus a lot on stopping the Wentz girl, and I thought that Laettner Blanco and Zoe Van Dyke did an excellent job of that,” Freeburg said.

“I thought in the second half of overtime, the girls did an excellent job of fighting, coming out winning the ball and possessing it. The defense did a great job of stopping the run. I was really proud of the girls tonight.”

“It was another classic,” said a disappointed yet appreciative Larson, whose team won a 3-2 overtime game at Gering on April 21 and shut out the Bulldogs 3-0 – with all six goals scored by Wentz – in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference consolation semifinals on April 12.

“I thought our girls did a really good job of possessing the ball, and we had some good looks. We just couldn’t quite get a couple in the back of the net again. It’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel this year, but the looks were there. I thought we possessed pretty well. I thought it was a pretty balanced game, like we would have the advantage then they would come back.”

The statistics prove how balanced the game indeed was. Gering edged Scottsbluff 21-20 in total shots, with each team firing 15 on goal. Each goalkeeper, Bulldog sophomore McKenna Copsey and Bearcat sophomore Livvy Michael, was credited with 14 saves apiece.

Gering had six corner kicks to Scottsbluff’s three, and it all came down to one, quick-thinking, well-executed set play.

Bearcat boys fall to Minutemen, await sub-state decision

The craziness that led to the start of the District B-8 boys’ soccer tournament Monday extended back into last week, when certain No. 1 seed Lexington was dealt a state penalty that turned the Minutemen’s record from 11-5 to 0-16 and Scottsbluff into the top seed and host team.

Lexington, forced to forfeit 11 wins after a player was found to have been ineligible, ended its regular season with a win last Thursday and then outplayed the host Bearcats for a 3-1 district semifinal victory Monday at the Landers Memorial Soccer Complex in Scottsbluff.

Lexington, which improved officially to 2-16, moved into the district championship game today at 5 p.m. to play host and No. 3 seed Holdrege, a 2-1, last-second winner over Gering on the field just east of where the Minutemen downed Scottsbluff.

Despite the loss, the Bearcats (12-6) still had a chance to qualify for the new, 16-team sub-state playoffs. Scottsbluff, which entered district play with the No. 9 wild-card point ranking, will not know its fate until late tonight, after other district tournaments are decided across the state.

“I am not guaranteeing anything right now, but the numbers look right for us to get in somewhere,” Scottsbluff coach Nate Rock said. “We just have to wait until things shake out.”

The Bearcats hoped to earn a spot in the postseason by winning districts, but Lexington was too tough Monday. Lexington’s solid play wasn’t a surprise, considering their success this season. Although they received the No. 4 seed after the forfeits, the Minutemen hardly played like a No. 4 seed.

“I think they definitely came in having something to prove, and that can be dangerous,” Rock said. “They needed to win, and they came out here and got the job done. It is disappointing not to win districts and get knocked out in the first round, but Lexington is the best four seed that you will see.”

What won the contest for Lexington was its strong defense.

“They are a good defensive team, and they have been a good defensive team with us for the three games,” Rock said. “Nothing changed today. They defended well. We panicked a little bit and started forcing the ball. We could have possessed a little bit more, but when you are down a goal, there is a tendency to do that.”

Rock said his players had problems getting good touches on the ball despite their effort.

“It wasn’t one of our best games by any means,” Rock said. “I thought we fought hard, but our touch wasn’t great today. It was one of those games where it seemed we didn’t have a great touch and that cost us a little bit. But the intensity and fight was there, so you can’t fault them for that.”

Lexington netted the first goal, scoring in the 32nd minute of the first hall when Ramirez-Sendejas fed a pass to Amador-Quinonez. The Minutemen’s 1-0 lead stood at halftime, and then they went ahead 2-0 when Charles Hosier scored on a penalty kick in the 17th minute of the second half.

Scottsbluff cut the lead to 2-1 in the 25th minute when Bearcat junior Tristen Donelsen threw the ball in to the middle of the box and a Lexington player accidently knocked the ball in for an own goal.

Lexington added an insurance goal two minutes later when Moises Garcia scored to go ahead 3-1.

Scottsbluff managed 18 shots in the game compared with Lexington’s 16. Lexington had five corner kicks compared to the Bearcats’ three. Scottsbluff’s Matt Mickey had six saves in net.

Gering boys nipped at end by Holdrege

Whether the time had expired or the referee of Monday’s Gering-Holdrege semifinal game wanted to just let a flurry of action continue until he blew his whistle to end regulation, only one thing was for certain when all was said and done.

The second-seeded Bulldogs, who had tied the third-seeded Dusters on a second-half goal by senior Gage Smith, were left on the short end of a 2-1 Holdrege victory that most likely ended Gering’s season at 10-9.

With less than 10 seconds remaining, Holdrege (10-7) kicked the ball deep into Gering territory. The Dusters’ Jacob Pfeifer made contact with the ball, and it ricocheted off senior Gering goalkeeper Dylan Wetherington toward freshman Josue Fernandez, who fired the ball into the net in the final seconds.

The referee’s whistle blew within a second of Gering’s ensuing kickoff.

“We just had a little trouble getting the ball cleared there,” Gering coach Justin Clark said. “We had a couple opportunities and had one save, but then we just couldn’t keep it out.”

One opportunity the Bulldogs didn’t miss on came in the second half, when Wetherington booted the ball way downfield. Gering eventually worked the ball deep into the box, and then Smith nailed a shot into the net from the left side to tie things up at 1-all in the 15th minute of the half.

“That’s one of the strengths that he possesses is to be able to hit the ball that long,” Clark said of Wetherington. Who had 17 saves on defense. “Our kids do a great job of hustling through and never giving up on that.”

The Bulldogs held advantages of 35-26 in overall shots taken and 23-18 in shots on goal. Gering also had five corner kicks to Holdrege’s two.

Holdrege’s other goal came from Pfeifer, who found the net off an assist from Alec Lonowski with about 10 minutes left in the first half.

“I thought our kids played outstanding today,” Clark said. “I told them afterward that they did everything that we asked them to do. Unfortunately, sometimes the ball bounces kind of funny.”

It sure does. Just ask the Gering girls how a bounce or two can be fortunate.

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