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 the overtime periods, either. The game was scoreless after 90 minutes of play, forcing a penalty shootout. Kentwood took advantage of the opportunity, and goals from seniors Garrett Rudolph and Brandyn Bangsund gave the Conquerors the 1-0 win.
Gig Harbor’s Ike Northstrom scored the lone goal for the Tides in the 2-1 shootout.
For the full length of the game, Kentwood was on its toes, fending off a potent Gig Harbor attack. The team was tested 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, saying the team was the toughest opponent Kentwood has 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 goals 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 PKs 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 were already slotted for the state tournament after winning the Narrows 4A league, and they know they were the better team on Thursday. The Tides were sound defensively and hardly gave the Conquerers any opportunity to sniff a goal. Northstrom said if he were to award an MVP for the game, it would 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 beat Skyview on Saturday, earning the No. 1 seed in the state tournament. Gig Harbor lost to Puyallup on Saturday, and will enter the state tournament as a No. 4 seed.
Northstrom’s message to his team after the game was simple: Get better.
“We’re capable of beating anyone, anywhere,” Northstrom said.