Comets Score Early in March to Semi-Final Soccer Showdown
Staring down on the astro-turf field fans saw Tommy Thompson force a turnover. The ball tipped away from East Grand Forks on a failed strike, their first to reach Hillcrest's box after the opening tip. With two minutes ticked-off of the clock, Hillcrest Captain Danny Martinez picked-up the Green Wave turnover and pushed the ball up the sideline, a common sight in Saturday's game as Hillcrest outed East Grand Forks (EGF), 5-1.
The Martinez push found Eivind Fluge at midfield. After settling the pass, Fluge threaded a precision pass to Marcus Hagen who was overlapping Fluge en route to the goal. A solid shot from Hagen found the back of the net inside the left post, and Hillcrest took an early 1-0 lead.
Three minutes after Hillcrest's coast-to-coast scoring play, Senior Jordan Foss soared over the shoulders of the Green Wave. A corner kick by Peter Taule found Foss streaking in, eyes on the ball, as he watched the pass deflect off his forehead into the back of the net. Foss' redirection gave Hillcrest a quick start, with a 2-0 lead before the seven minute mark.
A series of defensive stands commenced. The Green Wave dug in deep to halt the fast paced passing of Hillcrest. Consistent cuts to the net allowed Hillcrest's back line to keep the pressure on EGF. The consistent pressure eventually broke the Green Wave's defensive line at 33 minutes. Abdul Ahmed pushed through the box to near the goal with the ball in his possession. A take down in the box by EFG gave Hillcrest a penalty kick. With the sequence of events placing Hillcrest in prime striking distance, Fluge stepped into the goalie's line of sight to take the shot. A swift strike, done nearly twenty times in practice just days before, gave Fluge the goal Hillcrest the 3-0 lead going into halftime.
A directed pep-talk by EGF's coaching staff had the Green Wave amped to make a comeback. Under a minute into the second half, Hillcrest's defense was caught flat footed. The Green Wave pulled in to the sideline with little pressure on their offensive attack. A centering pass into the midfield opened the back corners of Hillcrest's defensive front. With a soft cross to the right side, EGF placed an expert shot, beating the Comet goalie and narrowing the Green Wave's deficit.
EGF failed to keep the pressure on Hillcrest. Ball control and quick movements to open space enabled the Comets to avoid turning the ball over. At the 60 minute mark Hillcrest won the ball at their own 18. Hagen shifted his short passing routine to a long strike to midfield, finding Fluge at the center line. All alone, Fluge bursted up the field. With the keeper slowing backing-up, shifting his weight from side to side in an effort to get Fluge to commit to a direction, he found himself unprepared. Fluge's dribbling ended with a bullet that darted across the turf, beating the Green Wave keeper to the right side of the net.
As the Green Wave looked to regroup their excitement in striking caused misplays on defense. A take down outside the box gave Jordan Foss an open kick. Choosing a shot at the goalie, Foss found the Green Wave unprepared. A misplay by the goal keeper gave Tommy Thompson a shot that found the back of the net and ended EGF's postseason.
With the win, Hillcrest moves to the section semifinal against St. Cloud Apollo at 4pm at Otter Stadium.