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Huntington North tops Columbia City in Sectional

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CELEBRATION: Members of the Huntington North boys soccer team celebrate with Brady Henline (12, center) after Henline gave the Vikings a 3–0 lead.
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DANCE: Tyler Christle dances after scoring the eventual game-winning goal during Huntington North’s 3–1 win over Columbia City in the New Haven Sectional on Monday.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The Huntington North boys soccer team advanced to the semifinals of the New Haven Sectional by defeating Columbia City 3–1 in a quarterfinal matchup on Monday.

The Vikings set the tone from the get-go, dominating possession of the ball in the early going. After a one-sided start to the game, Peyton Miller broke the ice in the 12th minute after Huntington North was awarded a penalty kick for a Columbia City hand ball in the box. Miller made no mistake, opening the scoring at 1–0 in favor of the Vikes.

Miller threatened to tally his second marker in the minute just after the ensuing restart, but his volley shot inched just over the crossbar. Likewise, Ashton Hosler also had a chance to double the Huntington North lead moments later in the 15th minute, but his rocket from outside the box following quick ball movement from the Viking offense sailed wide.

However, Huntington North kept pressing and found the back of the net in the 17th minute when Brady Henline opened space on a stop-and-go move around a Columbia City defender before finding Tyler Christle wide open in front of the Eagles’ goal. Christle converted the opportunity to give the Vikes a 2–0 advantage.

Alex Gass nearly got in on the scoring party in the 21st minute, but his bid from the top of the box went wide to keep the score at 2–0.

But, Huntington North was not yet finished, as Henline buried a shot past Columbia City’s goalkeeper, Dylan Johnson, off a centering pass from Lucas Riggers on a corner kick rebound. Henline’s strike pushed the Viking lead to 3–0 in the 26th minute.

The Huntington North offense continued their dominance throughout the rest of the first half, generating a trio of high-quality chances the rest of the way, but could not beat Johnson, sending the game to halftime with the Vikings holding a 3–0 advantage.

“We played how I think we can and should play (in the first half),” said head coach Steve Saddington. “I was kind of satisfied with how we played. We could, I think, have scored a few more, but we tend to get a lot of shots off, but our efficiency of scoring is actually pretty low.”

However, Columbia City was not ready to see their season ended without a fight. The Eagles came ready to play in the second half, evening out the pace of play.

Columbia City’s efforts eventually were rewarded, as the Eagles received a penalty kick opportunity in the 47th minute. Huntington North goalkeeper Aidan Hosler read the shot correctly, but could not keep the ball out of the net, as Columbia City cut the Viking lead to 3–1.

The teams exchanged chances throughout the rest of the contest, but no more goals would be scored, as Huntington North escaped with a 3–1 victory to advance in the Sectional tournament.

“A win is a win,” Saddington said. “I was expecting us to win, but not really in this matter. I was hoping that we would have a much more one-sided performance based on how I know our team is capable (of playing).”

Though the Vikings did manage to pick up the win, Saddington was not pleased with his team’s showing in the second half and knows they will need to be better if they want to advance again.

“I was really disappointed in our second-half performance,” Saddington said. “It didn’t seem like we had a sense of urgency or pride at just about any level of the field. … It just seemed like a lot of our guys were off in the second half. We had opportunities, but we didn’t capitalize on them. We just kind of let them hang around, and actually, if it wasn’t for a couple of good saves by our goalie, we could have found ourselves in a much different predicament. I was really disappointed in our second-half performance. … I was wanting them to have a repeat of the first half, get some more goals and just allow our bench guys to get a lot of playing time in the second half, but that just didn’t happen.”

Aidan Hosler made four saves in net to preserve the victory for the Vikes.

With the triumph, Huntington North moved to the Sectional semifinals, where they will face South Side. The Archers punched their ticket to the semifinals on Monday night by defeating Wayne 2–0.

The Vikings faced off with South Side on Sept. 5 and scored a win with four second-half goals after trailing 1–0 at halftime.

Game time for Wednesday’s semifinal tilt is scheduled for 5 p.m. at New Haven. The victor will advance to the Sectional championship on Saturday against either Homestead or New Haven.