Something had to give
It was a historic night for both Thomas Jefferson and North Moore soccer Tuesday night as the two teams played for a trip to the state championship match in Raleigh. Neither program had made it to the Regional final round prior to this season.
Thomas Jefferson came into the night undefeated on its home field and hadn’t allowed a goal the entire postseason. However, North Moore came to town having outscored its opponents 20-0 through the first four rounds. Something had to give.
That something ended up being the Thomas Jefferson defense as the Mustangs punched their ticket to Raleigh in the third overtime period with a golden goal off the foot of Eddie Garcia.
“That’s a pretty good team right there,” Thomas Jefferson head coach Brian Espinoza said in reference to the Mustangs after the loss.
Thomas Jefferson opened the match on the offensive but the Mustangs got into the flow of the game after the first 10 minutes as the teams traded possession.
Freshman Garrett Wantuch gave the Gryphons an early edge in the 11th minute when he cleaned up a scrum in the box with a shot into the net.
“We wanted to come out fast and we did,” Espinoza said. “We wanted to put them on their backs early.”
North Moore had an easy opportunity to tie the match four minutes later when TJCA goalie Stephen Maimone was called for aggressive play on in the box when he collided with a Mustang player going for a loose ball. North Moore was awarded a penalty kick but Pedro Ugarte’s shot rolled wide left preserving the 1-0 Gryphon lead.
Senior forward Alain Colnot entered the game shortly after and missed a scoring opportunity in the Mustang box when the two sides fought for possession.
TJCA’s Joseph Pate almost doubled the Gryphons lead in the 30th minute with a long range shot from 30 yards out but it rolled just left of the goal post.
The teams went into halftime with a handful of shots but no real scoring threats.
The Mustangs controlled the ball in the second half as the Gryphons seemed to play more conservative.
North Moore hand chance after chance before Iban Catalan took a pass from Eddie Garcia into the box and beat Maimone to tie the match 1-1 in the 65th minute.
“We didn’t come out wanting to be more conservative, we wanted to play the same soccer we did in the first half, but when a team is trailing that’s the type of energy they come out with,” Espinoza said. “We tried to battle their energy but they just came out with the momentum.”
The Gryphons offense reignited and started looking for the go-ahead goal in regulation when Colnot got behind the Mustang defense and sent a cross in Mathias Talbert who hesitated a moment to long before taking a shot the was deflected out of the box by a Mustang defender.
Regulation time expired and the two teams went into overtime tied, 1-1.
The two 10-minute overtime periods came and went without a goal setting up Garcia’s game-winner just moments into the first sudden death period.
“Words can describe how it feels when you lose like that,” Espinoza said. “As a coach it’s hard, but as a player it’s even harder. I just told the kids that I love them and this is just part of life. They just need to move on but that’s easier said than done.”
Thomas Jefferson ends the season 19-2-1 as the Western Region runner-ups.
“These seniors will move on and this is a good example for the underclassmen,” Espinoza said. “Now they know they can get this far and it opens up everything for next season.”