NCS soccer playoffs: Montgomery edges Casa Grande on penalty kicks

By PETER FOURNIER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

At halftime of Wednesday night’s NCS Division 1 semifinal against Casa Grande, Montgomery boys soccer coach Jon Schwan told his team, “You have to believe in your heart that we’re going to win this game.”

It probably took a little longer than he wished, but the Vikings did eventually advance to the NCS championship with a scoreless victory over the Gauchos, winning on penalty kicks 4-1.

“It’s exhilarating,” Schwan said. “It’s never really the way you want to end a game, but we got to get a result. You’re talking about an NCS semifinal.”

Montgomery kicked first in the penalty shootout, Eric Romero connecting to put the Vikings up 1-0. Casa’s Luis Pacheco took the Gauchos’ first kick, but the shot hit the inside of the left post and bounced out. The first unofficial goal of the game came two hours after from the match’s 7 p.m start.

Both teams scored in the second round of penalty kicks, Alex Gomez scoring for Montgomery and Ricky Chavez for Casa.

Evan Martinez scored to open the third round for the Vikings, but Gravier Pacheco’s shot for Casa was saved by Montgomery goalie Jordan Page, which set up Chris Ortiz’s goal in the fourth round of penalty kicks to win it.

Page fended off numerous Gauchos shots on goal in the first half, a period Casa dominated, though the game remained scoreless at the half.

Casa coach Lee Summerscales said his team let the Vikings stay in the game, even with a great first half. Schwan knew his team lost the first-half battle.

“We did not come out well at all,” Schwan said. “We did not come ready to play. We were nervous, we weren’t sharp; we made it really hard on ourselves.”

Schwan said a tactical change he made at halftime helped turn the tide.

“We seized momentum in the second half and overtime and carried it over into PKs,” he said.

Both sides saw shots on goals go just outside the post, or sail just inches above the crossbar in both overtime periods, each with the sudden death “Golden Goal” rule. Both teams had plenty of equal opportunities to end the game in regulation and the overtime frames with one shot, but failed to make it happen.

Page’s save during penalty kicks helped put the shootout away, but Schwan was more impressed with his goalie’s performance leading up to it.

“He won the game by making a couple of big saves in overtime,” Schwan said.

“He’s a kid I’ve had a chance to watch grow over the last three or four years at the club level, and I’m just very excited to call him my goalie.”

A sophomore, Page said the shootout was intense, and the big save in penalty kicks sort of came naturally.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” he said. “It was kind of reflex. I just got a hand to it and tipped it over.”

Schwan respected Casa’s performance.

“That’s a great opponent, great coach, and we’re extremely fortunate to come out in front of those guys,” he said.

Summerscales said the loss was disappointing, but the game was a good showcase for the strength of NBL soccer. The Gauchos finished the season 14-4-1.

This wasn’t the first penalty kick shootout for many of the Vikings. Schwan’s squad lost at Marin Catholic via penalty kicks in the first round of the playoffs last season.

“A lot of the players on the field for that game were here,” Schwan said. “I felt confident. I felt what we learned last year was going to pay off and it did.”

This will be Montgomery’s third appearance in the NCS title game in four years. The Vikings will face Tamalpais, who they played in the NCS final two years ago, at Rancho Cotate at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

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