Playing in their fourth game in four days, the North Platte High School boys’ soccer team gutted out a 4-2 win over Hastings Tuesday at Madison Middle School.
“We had an understanding going in fatigue would be an issue,” NPHS coach Danny Whitney said. “We felt like we were prepared to handle business. There were times we did and then there were times we sat back on our heels and let the game come at us and that’s how we gave up the two goals.”
A little under halfway through the first half, North Platte’s Jonny Garcia made a run on the left side before crossing the ball to Will Goentzel, who put it in the net to give the Bulldogs (7-2) the lead.
About five minutes later, Hastings (3-6) appeared to tie the game, but the Tigers were called for offsides and the goal was nullified. Hastings coach Dan Hawker was then ejected with a red card protesting the call.
But two minutes later, the North Platte defense broke down again and the Tigers evened it up with a goal by Moises Huezo.
The score remained tied 15 minutes later at halftime.
“I just think it took us a while to figure out what was needed to get the result we needed,” Whitney said. “We started slow. Our legs seemed heavy and we allowed it to dictate the game for a bit.”
Seven minutes into the second half, Aroque Bryant made a run into the goal box by eluding several Hastings defenders. The Tigers were able to stop him but the ball was deflected off of one of their players’ hands and a penalty kick was awarded to the Bulldogs.
On the penalty kick, Bryant beat goalie Duang Tang with a shot that landed in the top right corner of the net and NPHS regained the lead.
Four minutes later, it became 3-1 when Will Yonker scored off of a free kick.
The Dawgs put it away with six minutes remaining when Cole Lohoefner scored. Hastings scored again when Huezo scored on a breakaway but with just two minutes left, it was too late for the Tigers.
“We handled ourselves the way we needed to,” Whitney said. “It just came down to holding ourselves to a higher standard and holding ourselves accoutable as individuals. (We) just control the ball. Be simple. Hold the ball and create opportunities.”
Bulldogs runner-up at GNAC
The win over Hastings comes off of the three games North Platte played in the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference tournament on April 7 and April 9.
The first day of the tournament in Norfolk on April 6 was postponed due to weather. Then it was decided the two panhandle teams, Scottsbluff and Gering, would not travel the 400 miles to compete the next day and the tournament was reseeded with the other six teams. The top two seeds, Kearney and Columbus, got first round byes.
As the third seed, North Platte played sixth-seed Norfolk in the first round and defeated the Panthers in a shootout after 80 minutes of scoreless action to advance.
In the semifinals, the next day, the Bulldogs defeated Columbus in another contest that went to a shootout after it was tied at 2-2 in regulation.
The championship match against Kearney was then scheduled for April 9 in Kearney, which resulted in another shootout after neither team scored in regulation. But this time, NPHS wasn’t as fortunate and they fell to the Bearcats.
“Conference tournament was a lot of fun,” Whitney said. “We played our best soccer in the weekend and into Monday. I feel really good about how we competed in the championship game. We gave ourselves an opportunity to win and we fell short in the end. But it ultimately is going to be a good experience for our team as we prepare for the postseason.”
By holding Kearney and Norfolk scoreless in overtime, the Bulldog defense appeared to have found itself, Whitney said.
“They were solid,” he said. “They kept the game in front of them and our philosophy is if we can keep them out of the net and create chances for ourselves, we’ll have good results.”