BEACON FALLS – It wasn’t supposed to end like this. But it did.
The Woodland boys’ soccer team squandered a 3-1 lead and gave up three goals in a four-minute stretch at the end of the first half as the No. 8-seeded Hawks were upset by No. 25 Foran, 4-3, Monday in the first round of the Class M state tournament.
Woodland couldn’t hold on to the two-goal lead it earned 27 minutes into the match, including a pair of goals netted by the NVL’s leading scorer, Eric Dietz, and another by Nick Boccuzzi. But Foran made a charge at the end of the first half, scoring three goals in the blink of an eye to stun the Hawks in their first-ever home state tournament game.
Woodland coach Tony Moutinho said he takes the blame for his team giving up three goals in less than four minutes to surrender the lead.
“I actually put in some subs to rest the starters for the last few minutes of the first half and it backfired on me,” Moutinho said. “Usually it’s not a problem because they’re quality subs but I guess they just came in cold. I take the blame for this one.”
The Hawks pulled away from a 1-1 tie with 26:34 left in the first half when Tyler Carlos made a smart play on a free kick just outside the 18-yard box by tapping the ball to Dietz, who was streaking into the box. Dietz struck a ground ball that nestled inside the left post for a 2-1 lead.
14 minutes later, Carlos and Dietz hooked up again, this time on a chip from Carlos that found Dietz in the right side of the box. Dietz played a high bounce near his waist and fired it into the left side of the goal for a 3-1 lead.
“He had an exceptional season,” said Moutinho of Dietz.
With less than 10 minutes to go in the half, Moutinho made a few substitutions but didn’t make any tactical changes to sit back any further on defense. The cold players gave Foran the chance to make a comeback, and it took advantage.
In the 34th minute, Foran earned a free kick inside the box when the ball was played by a downed Woodland player. Matt Haselcamp shot past the Hawks’ six-man wall to make it 3-2.
Two minutes later, Woodland committed a handball in the box, giving Haselcamp a penalty kick which he easily converted to tie the game at 3.
Just a minute and a half after, Foran took the lead when Haselcamp scored his third-straight goal on a run down the left side of the field following a steal. Just like that, a comfortable, 3-1 lead for the Hawks had turned inside out to a 4-3 disadvantage.
It had all the makings for a shootout at halftime. But it wasn’t.
“I thought we were going to get a couple more and I thought they were going to get a couple more,” Moutinho said. “But they stood back there and they were happy with the 4-3, and I would be, too. Their defense played well and the keeper played well. I give my hat up to them. They held on defense.”
The teams battled for a physical final 40 minutes but neither could convert another goal after the wild first half. The Hawks pounded inside Foran territory for the final 10 minutes but couldn’t get the equalizer.
“In the second they were good on defense,” Moutinho said. “They stayed back and they did what they did what they needed to do to win the game. We should have won this game but we just didn’t play well at the end.”
Despite the loss, it was an historic season for Woodland, which won a program-record 13 games, clinched the NVL Brass Division title for the first time, earned a team-best eighth seed in the Class M state tournament, hosted a tourney game for the first time, and made its first NVL tournament semifinal.
“I’ll look at this as a good season,” Moutinho said. “Actually we did better than I thought on the overall season. It was a little disappointing at the end, but overall it was a good season.”