In years past, the Lincoln Abes have sent several talented soccer players onto the pitch at Lincoln Bowl, but as a team, they were often coming up short. While it may be a tad premature to begin dusting off a spot in the trophy case at Lincoln, it’s clear that this new version is the tightest unit that Lincoln has fielded in recent memory.
A good way to measure a team’s advancement is by matching up against the defending 3A Pierce County League champions for an early-season throw down.
While Stadium certainly graduated some significant talent from last season’s incredible 17-1 team, what remains is a quality group that knows how to turn it on at the right moment. Of course, with three-time All-City selection Kendall Burks making his presence known all over the field, the Tigers look like they have the makings of another potent team.
A sliver of a moon looked down on Lincoln Bowl surrounded by clear skies. While it got a little chilly out on Tuesday, March 20, the conditions were just about as perfect as can be considering most matches can get awfully wet and cold around these parts during the month of March.
The first 10 minutes of the match saw both teams foregoing the usual “feeling out” process. From the opening whistle, it was time to attack for both clubs and the only thing missing was a ton of scoring. The two goalkeepers had a lot to do with this as Lincoln junior Gabriel Foster and Stadium freshman Hayden Flynn put in some sparkling performances throughout the match.
As the first half hit the midpoint, it looked like Stadium was beginning to find its footing, as well as openings in the Lincoln defense. Several long Stadium runs ended in near misses, as well as an outstanding point-blank save by Foster to keep the score knotted at zero. The Abes also dodged a bullet when Lincoln junior Miquel Flores-Rosas tried to clear the ball and wound up hitting the right post of their own goal. Luckily the ball hit square and bounced straight back into play, where it was cleared by the Abes.
Stadium finally broke through with 15 minutes remaining in the half. Junior Justin Beardemphl sent a pass across the face of the Lincoln goal. Sophomore Braeden Pryor attempted a header, but the ball was too tall. Waiting on the backside was junior Rodrigo Dos Santos, who slapped a left-footed blast on the fly and Stadium took a 1-0 lead.
Lincoln would even the score with just under six minutes left in the first half. Senior Angel Herrera got behind the Stadium defense heading up the right side of the field and unloaded a low burner that snuck into the far end of the goal. The teams would take the 1-1 score into halftime.
The Abes came out swinging in the second half. Following a penalty inside the Stadium goal, Herrera lined up the penalty shot and sent it into the upper-right corner of the Tigers’ goal. Lincoln now led 2-1 just over three minutes into the second stanza.
Lincoln would continue to apply pressure to the Stadium goal and it paid off with just under 30 minutes remaining. Herrera sent a crossing pass to senior captain Ramiro Marquez, who slammed the ball into the back-left of the goal to give Lincoln a 3-1 lead. Following the goal, the Abes would have numerous near-misses that could have broken open the game.
It was apparent that Stadium was hell-bent on getting back in the match. The play began to get a little more physical and the opportunities were rolling. With 7:40 remaining in regulation, Foster was caught out of position, nearly outside of the goal box. Stadium was able to cross the ball to the other side, and as Foster ran back to get back into position, Beardemphl blasted a shot into the back-right of the net to close the Lincoln lead to 3-2.
Just over two minutes later, Stadium junior Martin Shehata would chip in a shot to knot the game at 3-3. Foster would then stop two excellent Stadium opportunities. With a minute remaining, Lincoln senior Joaquin Green sent a looping shot toward the right post of the Stadium goal. It looked as if it may have had a chance to go in, but Flynn was on the case, diving with both hands to knock the ball out of bounds.
The Abes had three more good looks in extra time, but each opportunity was nullified by an ill-advised pass. In the end, it was an enjoyable soccer match for the spectators and sets up a great rematch on Tuesday, April 17 at Stadium Bowl. First kick is set for 7:15 p.m.
Mark your calendars for this one.