Overtime goal ends Greene County’s season at state tourney

~by Noah Rohlfing for The Scranton Journal

Greene County sophomore defender Clay Peters and junior attacking midfielder Junior Gutierrez take the ball from Regina, Iowa City midfielder Alec Wick. | photo by Noah Rohlfing

It was over in just one minute and 15 seconds.

A left-footed, curling shot was fired into the top left corner of the net, sealing a golden-goal victory. The crowd roared, and emotion poured out from the players of both Iowa City Regina and Greene County. Euphoria on one sideline, and utter despair on the other.

For the Greene County boys’ soccer team, the goal was a gut punch.

An overtime goal by two-time defending Class 1A state champions Iowa City Regina brought a sudden halt to what had been a season full of history for the Rams, who had made the state tournament in just their second season as a program.

But, head coach Carl Behne said after the game, the bounces didn’t fall their way on Friday.

“Both teams played a very good, solid, tough match from start to finish,” Behne said. “Proud of the effort of the boys, super job all match.

“Just didn’t bounce right for us.”

Greene County’s game got off to a rugged start, with uneven possession and some missed passes, and the Rams were punished for their start when Regina scored in the fourth minute. The goal, scored by Regals leading scorer Alec Wick, was created after going through the heart of the Rams’ midfield, an area that Behne mentioned the Rams had trouble controlling for parts of the game.

After the Regina goal, Greene County started to grow back into the game, although possession was inconsistent from both teams.

After missing a couple of chances from attackers Luis Velazco and Junior Gutierrez and getting lucky with a missed shot from the Regals, Velazco put the Rams level in the 32nd minute of action.

A scramble in the box led to Velazco slotting a shot past the Regina keeper, tying the score at 1-1 and giving the Rams a boost of momentum heading into the second half.

The Regals’ defensive strategy, particularly in the second half, pushed Greene County to make most of their attacks from out wide instead of through the midfield.

“They were stacking 7-8 guys back,” Behne said. “We’ve talked all year, we’ve got to continue to get the ball wide. I thought overall we did that well today.”

The two teams canceled each other out as the second half continued, and the real chances at goal were kept to a minimum. A Velazco shot sailed wide as the clock ran out on regulation, and the game went to a sudden-death overtime.

Junior Gutierrez, the leading scorer in Iowa boys’ soccer, was kept mostly quiet by the Iowa City Regina defense save for a couple of opportunities. Behne said he’s likely to be targeted by opposing teams from Day One next season.

Greene County sophomore forward Luis Velazco takes a last-second shot in the second half of the Rams’ overtime loss to Regina, Iowa City Friday afternoon. | photo by Noah Rohlfing

“He did have two little breakaways, he just couldn’t get the ball quite right under his foot,” Behne said. “He’s kind of learning this role as the primary goal-scorer, where late year he could sit back a bit as that attacking [midfielder].”

The Rams had the ball briefly early on, but with the Regals’ first attack of the extra period, a cross fell to the feet of winger Drew Hartwig.

The Iowa City Regina senior curled a shot into the top left corner past the outstretched arms of Rams goalie Cael Fisher.

Truth be told, he had no chance of saving it.

Just like that, the Rams were finished,s ent into a lengthy offseason period at least a day earlier than they expected. It was the final game for senior starters Austin Delp, Isaiah Losee and Victor Santos.

“As tough as the loss is and as hard as it hurts to lose, you have to take from it that we’re here,” Behne said. “We’re competing with the best of the best.”

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