NEW HAVEN – For three straight years, from 2018 to 2020, Homestead eliminated the Huntington North Vikings from the boys soccer state tournament.
Not this time.
The Vikings (17-1) scored the first two goals in the Class 3A sectional semifinal match at New Haven on Wednesday night and held on to win 2-1, sending them to the sectional finals and stretching their win streak to 14 games.
“It's amazing, because we don't beat Homestead, ever,” senior Ashton Hosler said.
“It was really deserved, from the season that we played,” senior Lucas Riggers said.
Despite a disappointing history against the Spartans (8-9-1), the Vikings were on the offensive from the get-go, earning back-to-back corners five minutes into the match, including one that a Huntington North player got a head on for a near goal.
But the Vikings broke through in the 15th minute as Riggers raced down the right side, slightly ahead of the Homestead defender. Once he reached the box, he sent his strike past diving Homestead goalkeeper Osvaldo De La Rosa to put Huntington North up 1-0.
Just seven minutes later, Vikings senior Gabriolle Castillo took the ball away from a Spartans defender in front of the 18-yard box and played it to junior Carlos Cuadrado on his left. Cuadrado turned back to the Homestead goal and flicked it into the net for a 2-0 lead.
“We felt like that would put us in a good position. Of course you want to score first, but the fact that we scored two against a solid team was definitely favorable for us, and gave us a lot of confidence that we were going to finish the game, we should be able to win,” Huntington North coach Steve Saddington said.
But that comfortable lead wouldn't last long. With about 10 minutes left in the first half, Homestead senior Noah Smith knocked a laser-like strike from a huge distance to make it 2-1.
Smith's goal seemed to give the Spartans life: While Huntington North had controlled the match, Homestead appeared more comfortable in the final 10 minutes before the break and carried that momentum with them into the second half.
“Since they are a team that is a successful program, we felt they were going to put some urgency in their team in the second half to try to tie it,” Saddington said. “When they got that goal to make it 2-1, I think that gave them a momentum shift. For about the next 40 minutes, they probably outplayed us.”
The Vikings regained their footing in the final 10 minutes, as Homestead tried more and more desperately for a equalizer that never came and Huntington North fans cheered every time the Vikings knocked a ball out of bounds, running time off the clock.
Columbia City beat New Haven 4-0 in the evening's second semifinal, setting up a sectional final between Huntington North and the Eagles at 2 p.m. Saturday at New Haven.