For 80 minutes in Thursday night's Class 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict soccer match, neither Gig Harbor or Kentwood could find the back of the net. Neither team had much luck in either of the overtime periods, either. The game was scoreless after 90 minutes of play, forcing a penalty shootout. Kentwood took advantage of the opportunity, as goals from seniors Garrett Rudolph and Brandyn Bangsund gave the Conquerers the 2-1 win.
For the duration of the game, Kentwood was on their heels, fending off a potent Gig Harbor attack. Kentwood was tested, time and time again, but never surrendered a goal.
“The five guys I have in the back are all seniors,” said Kentwood head coach Aaron Radford. “There's times where we've relied on them this year in our battles. This is the most we've relied on them. They had to come through over and over tonight.”
Radford had high praise for the Tides, the No. 1 seed out of the Narrows 4A, were the toughest opponent they've played so far this year.
“Harbor did an excellent job, not only by putting pressure on us, but their shape, their movement, their commitment to playing united as a team—it's great,” Radford said. “It's probably the best team we've faced this year.”
While the Tides dominated possession and scoring chances, Gig Harbor head coach Todd Northstrom said his team will need to finish in future games.
“I think when we did shoot, a lot of times, we just shot at the keeper,” Northstrom said. “We didn't really challenge him at all. We didn't really challenge him in the PK's either. It was just one of those nights.”
Soccer is a funny sport; the better team doesn't always win. The Tides were the better team on Thursday night, which Radford admitted.
“I thought Gig Harbor had the best of play tonight, overall, I'd say that,” Radford said. “They didn't come away with a win. Their coach and I agreed: our sport is not always that fun to figure out what happens at the end of the game. It's not like basketball or another sport where there's a blowout or domination.”
Northstrom shared similar sentiments after the loss.
“Right now it feels like getting your heart ripped out, just because you controlled the game and were probably more threatening than the other team,” he said. “But that's soccer, that's why so many times, I just hate the sport.”
The Tides won't spend much time dwelling on their loss. They're already in the state tournament since they won the Narrows 4A league, and they know they were the better team. On a positive note, the Tides were sound defensively and hardly even gave Kentwood opportunities to sniff a goal. Northstrom said if he were to award an MVP for the game, it'd be to the entire Gig Harbor defense.
“They kept their shape, they won everything in the air,” Northstrom said. “They did everything that we worked on these last few days at practice in terms of how to recover when the ball is played over the top, who's marking who. They just proved that they're going to be a tough defense to deal with.”
Kentwood will face Skyview on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Mt. Tahoma for a No. 1 seed in the state tournament. Gig Harbor will face Puyallup on Saturday at 12 p.m. for the No. 3 seed in the state tournament.
Northstrom's message to his team after the game was simple: Get better.
“We're capable of beating anyone, anywhere,” Northstrom said. “Now it's just, lick your wounds a little bit, learn from it and come out better tomorrow.”
Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.