Summit soccer falls short of state championship game, drops to Northfield in semifinals
The Summit High School boys soccer team’s playoff run has come to an end in the semifinals of the 4A state playoffs.
After defeating Mead High School, Cheyenne Mountain High School and Northridge High School in the first three rounds, Summit fell to No. 2 Northfield High School by a score of 1-0 on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at the University of Northern Colorado.
Summit knew coming into the match that beating the Northfield Nighthawks — the reigning state champs — was going to be a challenge. However, Summit was confident that beating the challengers was possible after stringing together a series of impressive wins against some of the best teams in the 4A classification.
From the opening kickoff in Greeley, the Nighthawks played like they are the defending state champions. Northfield controlled the ball early and sent a fury of shots towards Summit’s defense and junior goaltender Abdoul Kane. A couple of shots landed on net, but Kane and senior defensive captain Evan Reil kept the Nighthawks at bay.
After weathering a series of chances, Summit started to find a rhythm and attempted to gauge on attack on Northfield.
About 10 minutes into the game, Kane came up big with a huge save. A free kick allowed a Northfield forward to get his foot on the ball and send a fiery shot towards Kane, but Kane moved his body in front of the ball to keep the score tied at 0-0.
Midway through the first half, Summit continued to search for a shot on goal after stringing several efforts together toward the net.
Despite the lack of shots, Summit found confidence through its defense. With every stop and counter attack, Summit appeared to gain more energy while zapping the energy from Northfield.
Eventually, the Northfield chances were too much for Summit to match. About 25 minutes into the game, the Nighthawks scored off of a deflected corner kick which slunk past Kane when he got tangled up with Reil, sending both players to the turf and exposing the net.
“I hate the goal that we gave up because it was a situation off of that corner that I think we could have handled a little bit better,” Summit head coach Jotwan Daniels said. “But that’s our sport. A little mistake can be costly and the ball can find the back of the net.”
Junior Ren Garfield was awarded the goal with senior Zach Lipzin receiving the assist.
The goal ignited Northfield — creating more opportunities to score — which led to a barrage of corner kicks. The Summit defense remained resilient though and fended off the chances to keep the score at 1-0.
Prior to halftime, Summit played with an urgency. The Tigers chased down loose balls, crossed the ball in front of the net, but were not able to score a game-tying goal before halftime. At the end of 40 minutes, Northfield led 1-0.
“We knew we had to chase the game at that point,” Daniels said. “We were not going to sit back and absorb pressure or fear chasing the game. We knew we had to open it up — take the fight to Northfield.”
Summit upped its offense in the second half, but the team still struggled to put promising shots on net.
Senior Owen Gallo, senior Fabian Cuevas and junior Alexander Elsig led drives down the field, but the Northfield defense overpowered the Summit offense, which led to the ball being coughed back up to the Nighthawks.
Seven minutes into the game, Kane attempted to come up with another save but ended up in a collision with a trailing Summit defender. Luckily the ball flew wide of the net, but the collision resulted in Kane having to come out of the game to assess his injuries.
With senior Trevor Hodges in net, Summit mainly kept the ball in its offensive zone until Kane was ready to reenter the game.
Despite Gallo and Cuevas leading the team in goals and assists throughout the regular season, the duo could not find one another against Northfield. Every time the two seniors tried to find the other, a Northfield defender stepped in the way or got a foot on the ball to disrupt the play.
With under 20 minutes remaining in the game, Northfield was one step closer to returning to the 4A state championship game. The Nighthawks could feel the anticipation building and made an effort to seal the game with a second goal.
Kane and the Tigers’ defense refused to let another shot through, though, collapsing in front of the net to keep the Nighthawks’ lead at 1-0.
Summit closed the game with a do-or-die attitude, giving everything the team had to try to force overtime and keep its playoff run alive. Summit made huge saves and sprinted across the field for any glimpse of an opportunity, but in the end the effort was not enough to defeat Northfield.
Summit’s “Cinderella story” playoff run ended at Jackson Stadium at the University of Northern Colorado.
The Summit soccer team shed a few tears after failing to advance to the state championship game — but after the bitter taste of the loss had subsided — the Tigers raised their heads high for all that had been achieved throughout the season.
“Our body language and attitude was not negative after the game,” Daniels said. “There were a lot of kids who kept their heads up high following that game and proud of what we had accomplished. We were gracious in that defeat.”
Summit concludes the season with an overall record of 13-4-2 — the most wins the program has seen since the fall 2014 season. Daniels could not be more proud of his team and is excited for the program to build on the success of this season next fall.
“It was fun to work towards our common goals with passion, desire and love,” Daniels said. “We have built the foundation underneath ourselves that brought pride to Summit soccer. We are on the map now, and I hope we can continue in this fashion.”
Summit will graduate 11 seniors from the program and will return 11 varsity players to next year’s roster.
Northfield will face No. 16 Battle Mountain High School in the state championship game on Saturday, Nov. 12.
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