MORRIS — Ottawa soccer coach Jeff Davis knew what kind of game the Pirates were getting into Tuesday against Streator in a Class 2A Morris Regional semifinal.
The first three times the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division rivals met this season, Ottawa left the victor.
The fourth, however, didn’t go the way the Pirates hoped as they ended their season with a 4-2 overtime loss to the Bulldogs.
“It was another Ottawa-Streator game,” Davis said. “It’s always going to be a close one. It’s a hard-fought game. They were on the right end of the stick in this one. We got them the other three times, but unfortunately, this one stings the most because it’s in regionals and it’s win or go home.”
No. 2-seeded Ottawa (12-9-1) had the No. 3-seeded Bulldogs on the ropes early by scoring the first two goals.
Junior Tristan Cunha sent a cross pass that Cristian Gutierrez easily placed in the back of the net with a header at the 10:24 mark.
Less than a minute later, at 11:22, senior Antonio Navarro had an ESPN-worthy pass of his own as classmate Alex Koziel blasted the feed into the top corner of the net to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Then the time of possession started to shift in the favor of the Bulldogs (11-9-1).
Streator gobbled up the ball and attacked Ottawa sophomore goalie Sean O’Donnell.
“They were getting some good looks, especially early on in the first half after we got those two goals,” Davis said. “I think we got a little complacent. We got a little more defensive instead of staying on top of them, and when that happened, we kind of sunk back and they got shot, shot, shot.”
The first Streator goal came at 29:15 from sophomore Sergio Padilla and the second one came at 38:13 by sophomore Jonathan Bustos.
Bustos’ goal tied the game 2-2 with 1:47 remaining in the first half.
“The way we wanted to start out, we wanted to put a lot of pressure at the beginning,” Bulldogs coach Jim Muntz said. “We probably stayed with our lineup two minutes too long and they scored the first one. Ottawa was the aggressor after the first five-minute mark, which led to both of their goals.
“What I really liked about our response was that we could have put our tail between our legs and just started playing kick ball. In order for us to get back in the game, we had to win the 50-50s and we did that a lot in the middle of the first half. Once we broke the ice, we knew we had the opportunity to tie the game. It gave us confidence.”
After neither team was able to score a goal in the second half of regulation, the confidence rolled to the two 10-minute overtime periods.
In the 20 minutes of overtime, Streator took four shots at goal — scoring on two of them —while Ottawa wasn’t able to take a single opportunity of putting points on the board.
The Streator defense held its ground as it switched to a mid-field orientated defense by putting four mid-fielders in the center, Muntz said. Also, the Bulldogs played the clock by kicking the ball out of bounds as much as possible to run down the amount of time the Pirates would have to score.
Both strategies were useful as the Pirates couldn’t find a way to retake the lead.
“I have to give the kids credit. They put in so much hard work, dedication and time this offseason,” Davis said. “The kids deserve so much credit for the season they had because they worked extremely hard for it. It’s going to be extremely hard losing all of those seniors we are losing.
“They definitely set the bar high for our juniors, sophomores and freshmen to achieve. Hopefully, some of those kids can step up to the challenge and play like these seniors did.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @NT_LaChance.