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Trojans advance to third-round playoffs

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By Michael Paul, Sports Editor

PIKEVILLE—As expected, the rout began early.

The C.B. Aycock Golden Falcons, 19-1 and ranked among the top-10 high school soccer teams in Class 3-A, scored in the first 34 seconds in the state playoff Oct. 29 against West Brunswick.

Falcons’ fans, who filled about half of the stadium, had seen this kind of domination all year.

The Trojans, unranked and winless in their conference… then went on to beat the Falcons 2-1.

Senior Christian Iwankiw’s goal in the final two minutes provided what West coach Tripp Smith said was one of the biggest victories in his four years as the boys’ coach.

“A phenomenal effort,” Smith said. “The whole team was awesome.

“The boys did not want to quit. Our seniors wouldn’t let them.”

West (10-12) tied the scored two minutes after Aycock’s goal on a shot by junior forward Gilberto Gonzalez. He rebounded the ball past the Aycock goalkeeper after a shot by senior forward John Mendoza ricocheted toward him.

“I chipped the guy and I thought I had a free shot—so I took it,” Mendoza said. “Any shot I get I’m going to take it—no matter what. Luckily, once again, Gil was there, doing his job.”

Iwankiw said West’s quick goal to tie the score was crucial to the victory.

“It meant a lot,” he said. “We were down and got right back in the game. We got our heads up.”

The rest of the game was the Logan Tripp show, as West’s senior goalkeeper made 12 often-spectacular saves, and he was involved in many other plays.

“He is our team tonight,” Smith said. “He stopped everything they threw at him.”

The Falcons’ quick first goal hardly unsettled Tripp.

“It wasn’t a big deal,” he said. “I knew it had happened before and it was going to happen again. We have the ability to go down there and score six or seven goals.”

Smith agreed.

“We don’t go anywhere and not get scored on in the first five minutes,” he said. “If we got down, we would have already quit and not be here (celebrating). They just kept getting after it.

“We have a good attack and they know they can score when they put it together—and they did tonight. We just took on a team with a bunch more seniors than we have. This was basically the same team that was here when we were here.”

And that was a 2-1 overtime victory by West two years ago.

“We’re a very inexperienced team,” Tripp said. “We have three seniors. Everybody else is underclassmen. I knew when we came out there we’d have first-game jitters. For a lot of them, this was their first playoff game.

“Christian and I have been in at least two years’ of playoff games. We have a lot of experience. We’re the leaders. We get them together and we keep the morale up.”

And Tripp’s goalkeeping in the first half was a morale boost for the Trojans. Three times Tripp charged from the goal to stop breakaways.

“I try to come out anytime I can,” he said, “because if the guy has a breakaway, you have a better shot of coming out and trying to cut down his angle. Stopping it three or four times, that’s just amazing.”

On one of the saves, the ball was kicked so hard it went between the kneeling Tripp’s legs, but he stopped the ball with his heels. Another spectacular save showed no fear on his part.

“The one where I got the ball and the kid flipped over me,” Tripp said. “I think that just got our team going and (Aycock) saw I was out here to mean business. From then on, we just played our hearts out.”

At halftime, Smith reiterated the need to try to cross the ball.

“Coach Tripp was telling us to switch the ball,” Iwankiw said. “We hadn’t been doing that in the first half. He was yelling at us, telling us to switch the ball. He was trying to pump us up for the next half.”

Smith also told the team to be more aggressive in winning control.

“I said to win the 50-50 balls, and go out there and show them you want it more than they do,” Smith said. “They took what I said and they went out and they worked (hard) in the second half. A lot of good stuff.”

On defense, Smith also made adjustments to prevent any more breakaways.

“He told us to play deep,” Iwankiw said, “because they were playing kickball over our heads. He told our center defensive back to play deep so they couldn’t get any breakaways off us.”

Smith credited sophomore back Aaron Frye with causing the Falcons to rush some shots in the second half.

“Those players can hear those footsteps,” Smith said. “They get nervous. They start launching shots over the bars and wide right and wide left.”

Tripp still faced a barrage of shots in the second half. In the first 10 minutes, he touched the ball nine times. And West got lucky two times: With 19:40 left and with 17:48 left, Falcon breakaway shots soared inches high of the net.

Tripp’s best saves in the half came with fewer than 10 minutes left. On a quick reset with 8:55 left, and with most of the players unaware the ball was in play, he stretched to his right to stop a low shot. With 7:10 left, he stopped a quick turnaround shot in the box.

The Trojans scored the winning goal in the final two minutes on a shot by senior forward Christian Iwankiw.

Again, Mendoza was involved. Awarded a free kick near the 20, he arched the ball over the Aycock defense and on target for an apparent goal.

“I was pretty confident with my shots all year,” Mendoza said. “Most of them went in on free kicks. I was pretty confident it was going to go in.”

But the ball was a few inches too high of landing in the goal.

“I thought it was going over,” Iwankiw said. “I didn’t expect it to come right back to me.”

The ball bounced off the crossbar and back into the field of play to where Iwankiw was positioned.

“Luckily, one of my teammates was there to scoop it in,” Mendoza said.

“There was only one defender on me and Corey Bell,” Iwankiw said. “He couldn’t guard both of us. The ball went off the post and I was right there. It was great.”

For Tripp, at the other end of the field, he got ready for a volley of last-minute shots.

“Those last five minutes were the longest five minutes of my life,” he said. “Once we got the lead, I was like, ‘I can’t screw up now.’ I still kept my composure and I think I did a pretty decent job of keeping everybody together (on defense).”

And with that, West had its improbable victory.

“You always have to come prepared for anything,” Mendoza said about the upset. “To me, soccer has been all my life. I’m confident going onto the field, all the time, no matter what. I give it my all, 100 percent.”

“I love winning, and I love winning in the playoffs and being in it. I’m proud of our team.”

WEST BRUNSWICK 3

WEST CARTERET 2

MOREHEAD CITY—The Trojans advanced into the second round by beating West Carteret 3-2 Saturday evening.

West Brunswick coach Tripp Smith benched for disciplinary reasons starting forwards John Mendoza and Gilberto Gonzalez at the start of the game, and the lack of speed up front hampered the Trojans when they tried to sustain any attacks.

But about 10 minutes into the game, Trojan senior midfielder Christian Iwankiw carried the ball along the right side and passed it to junior forward Chip Gonzalez, breaking across the middle of the box. He ran to the left side of the box and kicked the ball into the upper left corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead.

John Mendoza and Gonzalez entered the game after the goal, and the speed of the offense increased. The Patriots fouled John Mendoza to stop an attack with 24 minutes left in the half, and his penalty kick gave West a 2-0 lead.

West’s defense of Aaron Frye, Chaz Earp, Chandler Inions, Casey Leonard and Ryan Faircloth prevented any breakaways in the half on goalkeeper Logan Tripp.

“Logan didn’t have to work as hard tonight,” Smith said. “The defense really seems to be coming together.

Tripp’s best save in the half came with about 14 minutes left, when he drifted to his right to make a save on a chest-high shot headed for inside the back post.

But West Carteret cut the lead to 2-1 in the first two minutes of the second half, when a shot from a severe angle landed behind Tripp and into the right side of the goal.

West Brunswick clinched the victory on a goal set up by a corner kick in the final 7:30. John Mendoza took the corner and lofted the ball toward Chaz Earp, who was in the middle of the box. He headed the ball toward goal, where Chip Mendoza gained control of the ball and kicked it into the goal.

Tripp helped preserve the two-goal lead when he made a save with about 6:00 left. He came out of goal to stop a breakaway with 2:40 left. And he made another save with 1:18 left.

West Carteret scored in injury time, but the game ended fewer than 30 seconds later. The Fighting Patriots, like West, have three seniors on the team and end the season 7-17.

MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at sports@brunswickbeacon.com.