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Lakeridge outlasts Tornado in a thriller

The last player on the bench can make a difference.

The North Medford and Lakeridge boys soccer teams waged an intense — but scoreless — battle for 100 minutes before a Pacer substitute came up with the biggest plays of all in a 1-0 sudden-death shootout victory at Varsity Field.

In a compelling game in which 80 minutes of regulation play and 20 minutes of overtime play couldn't break the tie, each team sent their top five attackers out for the penalty kick session.

The only difference in the typical shootout atmosphere was in Lakeridge's choice of defense.

Instead of pinning its hopes on the senior goalkeeper who had played all 100 minutes and put the Pacers in position for the shootout — as North did with junior Dan Torrey — — they opted for untested sophomore Jonathan Wollert.

I don't think I would ever make that change, but maybe their coach felt like the keeper was tired and the other one could do the job, said North coach Rich Garcia.

It didn't seem to matter what nature of defense the teams put in the goal box in the first four rounds as Lakeridge scored on its first four attempts and North scored on its first four attempts by Dustin Wallace, Scott Jolly, Josh Grace and Babak Asgharian.

Maintaining his poise, Torrey denied Lakeridge's Dusty Hume on the Pacers? fifth penalty kick.

But with the game's outcome hinging on Dominic Crenshaw's shot, Wollert came up with most likely the biggest save of his young career to send the match into a sudden-death shootout.

Capitalizing on his team's second chance, Lakeridge's Brian Hover slipped a shot past Torrey in sudden death. Aaryn Abbott next fired away for North, but his effort was blocked by a diving Wollert to send the Pacers into the quarterfinals and close out North's season at 9-4-3.

Their keeper came up big, Garcia said. You have to give him credit. We just kind of let one slip away from us. Something had to give but nothing gave.

Despite the loss, Garcia said his team had nothing to hang its head over in dropping the decision.

I'm really proud of these guys because they battled, said the coach. Everybody came to play today and nobody left anything on the field. We kept our composure and poise in the game, and they gave us chances to win.

The Black Tornado defense especially kept the door open for a victory, with Torrey playing a stellar game in goal while getting help from defenders Ben Clark, Grace, Wallace and Justin Bilodeau. Also chipping in on the defensive side were Jolly, Crenshaw and Kedric Charlton.

Those boys back there played tremendous today, said Garcia, and Dan was tremendous in goal as well. He did a tremendous job finishing up the season for us.