It was everything a playoff game is supposed to be.
One hundred minutes of soccer was not enough to settle the clash between Oshkosh North and Oshkosh West, who met to end the regular season just a week ago. The two teams went to a shootout at Titan Stadium, but this time with a WIAA Regional title at stake.
In the end, a switch in goal by Oshkosh North proved to be a great move, as they posted a 3-0 victory in the shootout and earning that regional title and a trip to the sectional semis.
“It was nerve-wracking. I was pretty scared,” said shootout goalie Hue Xiong. “I kinda watched their stance, and I went to one side and I got both of them.”
Both Luke James and Angel Herrera of West were stymied by Xiong in the shootout. Parker Gest, Elliott Dyer, and Max Zellmer all scored for North. West’s final shooter, John Yang, misfired high and over the net to end the game.
Both goalies made huge saves for the Spartans. Starting goalie Elliot Pachniak turned in a gem of a game, stopping a shot at point blank range from West in the second overtime.
“We have been going over it back and forth in practice,” said Pachniak of the battle between him and Xiong. “He is normally backing me up, but he is better at PK’s. That was a great moment for him. I am so happy.”
Near misses and great scoring chances were the story of the game for both squads, as both teams simply refused to lose this soccer match.
“We didn’t play the greatest, like we did on Tuesday night. We gave them some really good chances that we were lucky they missed,” said North head coach Kevin Baetke. “Elliot came up with a huge save, and it was a very well-played game on both sides. That is how things are decided in the playoffs.”
North showed a lot more energy at the beginning of the match, a stark contrast from the 3-2 loss to West to end the season a week ago. That aggression at times had West on its heels, but their defense was able to withstand most of the attacks.
“We didn’t play the greatest in the first half last Thursday and tonight I thought we played better,” Baetke said. “Today I thought was pretty even, though they may have had a little bit more possession. We did a good job of halting that, and stepping out and getting our fair share of opportunities from that.”
For West, it was a sudden ending to a very good season.
“It has plagued all year long: we will have games when we have a difficult time scoring goals,” said Wildcat head coach Matt Callahan. “We had some opportunities tonight we easily should have finished and couldn’t. And when you leave teams in the game, this is what can happen.”
The Spartans will travel to Neenah next Tuesday for a sectional semi-final tilt with the Rockets, 8-0 winners over Beaver Dam.