By Gareth Kwok, Sports Editor
// Talk about an instant classic. It had everything you wanted in a North Coast Section (NCS) semifinal game. Intensity. Drama. Grit. And in the end, a victory for Acalanes.
The #2 seeded Dons defeated #3 seeded Richmond in the NCS Division II semifinals 2-1 in extra time on February 22. The matchup looked good on paper and the game turned out to be exactly what the fans expected: a hard fought battle by both squads.
As with most of these playoff games, the pace was incredibly fast. Both teams pushed the ball up the pitch, absolutely wasting no time at all.
The Dons struck first with about three minutes left in the first half in amazing fashion. Senior co-captain Drew Wondolowski pushed the ball ahead towards the right post. Seeing an opportunity to punch the ball away from danger, the Richmond goalkeeper, Sebastian Servin, rushed out from underneath the net to try and take away a goal-scoring chance for Wondolowski. Recognizing the keeper sprinting after him, Wondolowski gently poked the ball past the rushing keeper, however, skewing the angle toward the right near post. Wondolowski’s only chance to score would be to hit the far left post from the difficult position he was in. Nevertheless, “Wondo” capitalized. With his back towards the net, Wondolowski flicked the ball over his head with his right foot, going for goal, as the ball floated towards the far post. The ball bounced once and barely went into the back of the net, as the ball was literally a foot away from hitting the far post. His teammates went crazy as well as the crowd, and rightfully so. Dons up 1-0 at the half.
Most of the second half remained uneventful, neither team able to punch it in despite numerous scoring chances. With about 14 minutes to go in the game, the Dons defense suffered a breakdown, leaving a wide open Richmond striker, Kevin Elias, to place a left footed shot past junior goalkeeper Luke Denham. 1-1 at the end of regulation.
NCS extra time rules are two 10 minute periods of sudden death or “Golden Goal.” This means that the next goal wins the game. The first period remained uneventful, leading to a final 10 minutes to determine a winner before penalty kicks. With only 4 minutes left, Acalanes earned a corner kick. The attempt failed but the ball went out to senior midfielder Bryan Bamford, who fed the ball to senior striker Gabe Singer only a few yards away from the goal. Singer beat Servin at the right near post, putting the ball into the back of net and ending the game. Singer sprinted towards his teammates, hands outstretched in pure elation. A mob scene ensued as every Dons player mobbed Singer. Richmond players collapsed to the turf in heartbreak but fortunately, both teams embraced with each other in a show of good sportsmanship after the game.
Acalanes will host #5 seeded Montgomery at 7 pm Saturday night for a chance to win their first NCS title since 2009. The Dons have only won one NCS boys’ soccer championship in school history. That could change come Saturday evening.