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KNIGHTS ADVANCE TO SEMIS

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By Niko Bulaon

Members of St john Soccer team celebrate the third goal of the game. (photo by Joey Blas)

Members of St. John’s Soccer team celebrate the third goal of the game. (photo by Joey Blas)

The IIAAG boys’ soccer playoffs kicked off with the defending champions, St. John’s Knights, avoiding elimination by defeating the fourth-seeded GW Geckos, 3-1, at the GW field Thursday night.

The Knights fell to fifth-seed late into the regular season after losing all of their last three games.

“GW has been a good team from the start,” said Knights captain, Cedric Sevilla. “They have high spirits, we were determined to crush their spirits, press high as a team, and work together effectively.”

The Knights and Geckos knew each other’s aggressiveness, battling it out to gain momentum. But with each shot attempt, the ball either flew too high or straight into the goalie’s hands. It wasn’t until the 35th minute when Knights’ Gen Fudo sliced the ball through the Geckos’ defense and keeper to put his team up, 1-0, ending the first half with high hopes.

At the start of the second half, both teams struggled to keep the ball in their favor. Knights’ keeper, Michael Wang soon stepped up, stopping the high momentum of GW’s Ryan Quitugua on multiple one-on-one situations.

GW Goalie Joaquin Sanchez clears the ball downfield. (photo by Joey Blas)

GW Goalie Joaquin Sanchez clears the ball downfield. (photo by Joey Blas)

But in the 61st minute, Quitugua soon found an opening, slipping the ball through Wang’s hands to score the Geckos’ lone goal of the game, making it anyone’s game by the end of the half.

Going into overtime, starting with only 10 players after a red card at the end of the second half, the Geckos determination didn’t dwindle. With several missed opportunities by St. John’s, behind Quitugua, GW’s offense started to outrun the defense of the Knights, in an effort to take the lea.

Knights Brian Sih-Jae Kim soon stepped up to get his team’s defense going. The momentum shifted to St. John’s after a clear by Kim was turned into an own goal by GW, putting the Knights back up, 2-1, in the fourth minute.

With St. John’s up, the Geckos looked to tie another time. But with the tight defense of the Knights, GW could find no real opening.

GW Isaiah Macias passes the ball downfield. (photo by Joey Blas)

GW Isaiah Macias passes the ball downfield. (photo by Joey Blas)

As time ticked away, the Knights started to play safe, keeping the ball as far away from their net as possible. With so many clears coming from St. John’s, Knights’ Daniel Del Carmen found an opportunity, taking the ball up to go one-on-one with the goalie and chipping it in to break any hope of a Geckos comeback with less than two minutes left.

Wang totaled nine saves in the game, playing a dominant role in the Knight’s win. “My teammates had great support,” stated Wang. “Our managers, our coach, our parents; they all had support throughout the season and they motivated me to do better.”

As the defending champions head the to semi-finals, Sevilla said, “I think we need to practice more. It was a good win today, but there are a lot of things we need to work on. Overall, I think the boys will go well.”

The Knights are scheduled to play against their two-time finals opponents, the Southern Dolphins, in the semi-finals, Tuesday night at 6 p.m.

OTHER SCORES

Southern 1, ND 0
Dolphins Napu Topasna with the lone goal

JFK 3, Okkodo 0
Islanders Philip Ogo, Austin Borja, and Agi Choi with one goal apiece

Harvest 3, FD 0

 

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