Turning out to be a wild contest, the Kentwood High School boys soccer team took home the 2-1 victory in a penalty-kick shootout over the Gig Harbor Tides to earn a trip to the Class 4A state semifinals.
Taking the shootout, 4-3, after six attempts by the Tides, Conquerors goalkeeper Admir Kucalovic was the star of the night, saving two shots and watching another go over his head.
“In regards to soccer, we got the redemption. We probably got a little bit burned on the penalty kick in stoppage time,” Kentwood coach Aaron Radford said of the roller-coaster victory. “They got a good goal, and my boys responded well in overtime to not feel like they were overwhelmed and to not let their heads sag and feel like they gave the game away.
“The boys believed in themselves. From Day One, before we even kicked off, I didn’t know what we were going to be able to do this year. And when we got the games going and started the season off, we got a win.
“Every time we got into a matchup where I thought we were really going to face a challenge, the boys came through. They’ve made a believer out of me time and time again. I got to believe they’re ready to face any challenge.”
In the 60th minute, Kentwood’s lone freshman, Mason Rudolph, found the net, beating Gig Harbor goalkeeper Matt Stephens one-on-one for the first goal of the game.
The composed finish came from a ball chipped through from junior Aidan Gray, who played the ball over the Tides’ backline, allowing Rudolph to run into space to give the Conquerors what appeared to be the winning goal.
However, more than two minutes through stoppage time, Gig Harbor found their equalizer.
Although the game had been loosely called up until the point by the referee, the Tides found themselves on the end of some good fortune as a penalty kick was called on a foul going away from the goal just inside the 18-yard box.
Taking it for Gig Harbor was junior Tanner Stepp, who calmly stepped up and buried the shot to the back post with Kucalovic guessing the wrong way.
With the win, Kentwood advances to play against Snohomish in the Class 4A state semifinal at 8 p.m. Friday at Sparks Stadium in Puyallup.
It’s the first trip to the state semifinals for the Conquerors since 2011, when they took third place.