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Vikings' Cinderella run comes to an end

RUSH: Sophomore Alex Gassevades a defender to generate a scoring chance during Huntington North’s 5–1 Sectional Championship loss to Homestead on Monday.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The Huntington North boys soccer team’s improbable postseason run came to a close on Monday, as the Vikings lost a 5–1 decision in the Sectional Championship.

After upsetting North Side and Wayne in the first two games of the Sectional tournament, the Vikings faced their tallest task in Homestead, who earned the 17th position in the 3A rankings.

The Spartans got off to a quick start, opening the scoring just minutes into the contest to claim an early 1–0 lead.

Homestead continued to control play as the half went on, but were unable to find the back of the net despite having a few scoring opportunities. The Spartans’ best chance to double their lead came in the 29th minute, but junior goalkeeper Aidan Hosler robbed the point blank bid.

However, Homestead broke through late in the half off a corner kick that bounced around in front of the net before being fired to the back of the Huntington North goal, giving the Spartans a 2–0 lead in the 35th minute, which ultimately served as the score at halftime.

Homestead again came flying out of the gates, as they nearly scored in the 42nd minute, but the attempt was pulled just wide of the near post, leaving the score at 2–0 for the time being. But, just two minutes later, Homestead extended their lead to 3–0 after a Spartan found himself 1-on-0 against a rushing Hosler and made no mistake, converting on a well-placed shot around Hosler.

The Spartans nearly scored again in the 54th minute, but Hosler made a nice save on the attempt. However, the ball’s momentum carried it toward the goal even after Hosler’s save. With the ball trickling toward the goal line and a Homestead player closing in, Hosler dove back and punched the ball away to keep the game at 3–0.

The Vikings finally got on the scoreboard in the 56th minute off a beautiful combination play by juniors Peyton Miller and Carter Mertz. Miller got a step on a Spartan defender and sent a cross toward Mertz. Homestead’s goalkeeper found himself caught in between of rushing toward the ball to break up the play and staying in the net. After a slight delay, the goalkeeper charged toward the ball, but Mertz got his head on the ball and put it past the oncoming Spartan to close the gap to 3–1.

Despite the new-found momentum, the Vikings were unable to build on it. Homestead continued applying pressure and again found the back of the net in the 68th minute to regain their three-goal lead at 4–1 following a free kick. The Spartans again buried a goal in the 77th minute to put the game out of reach at 5–1, the game’s eventual final score.

“We didn’t match up with them,” said head coach Steve Saddington. “We got outplayed most of the game. We showed some kind of heart at the end and got a goal to get it 3–1, but we were pretty soft in the back line inside our box and that’s where most of their goals were scored. They were putting pressure on us most of the game. We knew this was going to be an uphill battle. They’ve got solid players up and down the lineup, and we knew that. But, I felt like we could have given them a better game.”

The loss completed Huntington North’s season and dropped the Vikings’ season record to 8–8–3.