Before Lynden Christian’s opening Class 1A Bi-District loser-out boys’ soccer game had even started, things had gone wrong.
On the way to the game one of the LC vans got rear-ended. It was described as “just a fender-bender” by Lyncs’ goalkeeper Jake Poag but it was jarring and mentally shocking to the entire program.
It also left star center back and senior Liam Kroontje exhibiting signs of a concussion.
“At first I was like ‘Oh OK, nothing is wrong’ and then I turn around and I see he’s kind of tearing up a bit,” Poag said, “and he’s a tough guy. He’s a really tough guy. I don’t usually see him doing that but I saw that and I immediately knew it was going to be a tough game.”
Despite rattling the Lyncs and forcing Kroontje to the sidelines, Lynden Christian refused to let the incident decide its fate, remarkably finding a way to defeat Northwest 3-2 in a shootout on Tuesday, May 12, at Civic Stadium.
LC coach Brent De Ruyter was a little choked up talking about his team’s mental toughness after the game.
“I give these guys a ton of credit. We fought really hard,” De Ruyter said. “Just a great team effort. We just willed our way into this.”
With Kroontje out and a couple others sick or just returning from illness, the Lyncs had to shuffle the lineup around and it left them searching for answers in the first half.
Northwest put six shots on target in the first 40 minutes, eventually outshooting LC 18-5, and challenged the Lyncs’ defense numerous times.
“I really think that first 40 minutes really was about us trying to find ourselves,” De Ruyter said.
The only answer the Lyncs did have was Poag, who made six of his 16 saves in the first half while thwarting several of Northwest’s attacks with his aggressiveness at the back.
“I knew I had to step up a bit and as the game progressed I knew I was going to get a lot of shots and I just had to believe in myself,” Poag said. “It’s tough when your star center back who holds your defense together isn’t there.”
The Lyncs played a much better second half, but Northwest still controlled the play, getting several more shots on target.
The consistent knocking on the door left Northwest prone to the counter attack and in the 60th minute, Lyncs leading scorer Cody Fransen made Northwest pay.
He got behind the back line, received the ball and buried it home as Northwest appealed for an offside to no avail.
Northwest responded back quickly, when Michael Lindberg flicked in a goal that Poag had no chance at saving in the 65th minute.
With Northwest still dominating play, the Lyncs got a free kick 25 yards out. As the goalkeeper was setting up his wall of players, the referee signaled play to resume and Fransen capitalized on the goalkeeper being out of position, finding the far post with a hammering shot.
“I was thinking ‘What are the chances this free kick goes in?’” Poag said. “As soon as it went it, I exploded.”
The Lyncs held on to the lead until the dying seconds, when Matias Lazo-Fanning found himself with the ball at his feet three yards out and only the keeper to beat, tapping it in with ease.
The two 5-minute overtime periods went by without a goal – although Poag saved a breakaway by Northwest with just a minute remaining in overtime – sending the game into a penalty shootout.
Of course who other than Poag would be the hero in kicks from the mark?
On Northwest’s first attempt, Poag dove to his left, got his fingertips on the ball and collected it on the line.
“I feel like I got a 50-50 chance of getting it down,” Poag said. “When he did that little shake back and forth I knew he was trying to get in my head and I was like ‘I’m going to this side and I’m going to save this penalty.”
The Lyncs would only have to make the next four attempts after Fransen made the fisrt to secure the win.
It was the Lyncs second time going to a shootout in the past three games and they showed they learned something from the last time – a loss to Sultan – as Carson Janzen, Derek Kamena, Jo Meppelink and Justin Brester all scored.
“Their resilience mentally. To start off the way we did before the match even started and then to have two more letdowns when we gave up those two goals,” De Ruyter said. “To see these guys fight so hard, it’s incredible.”
LC will move on to face University Prep at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 14, at Sultan High School.
Reach Joshua Hart at 360-715-2238 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynden Christian 3, Northwest 2 (SO)