Gonzaga rallies to win state soccer title, defeating St. Albans in penalty kicks

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Gonzaga tied the game with a score during extra time in regulation to force overtime. Neither team could score during sudden death, but the Eagles finally downed the Bulldogs in penalty kicks. (photo by Cory Royster)

St. Albans clung to a 1-0 lead as the clock at Georgetown University froze at two minutes and officials kept extra time on the field at the end of regulation in the waning moments of the D.C. State Athletic Association boys soccer championship game on Saturday night.

With time quickly slipping away, Gonzaga pushed its lines farther up the field and peppered the Bulldogs’ cage with shots. The Eagles were able to break through moments before the final whistle when senior Austin Smith knocked in an equalizer on a corner kick to send the game into overtime.

“I just got a great ball from our senior captain Ryan Teuschl,” said Smith. “I was just happy to rise up above everybody to help us go on to win the tournament.”

After two overtime periods, Gonzaga edged the Bulldogs 5-4 in a penalty kick shootout.

The victory gave the 16-6-3 Eagles their first-ever triple crown after capturing the Jesuit Soccer Classic earlier this fall, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference on Nov. 5 and the DCSAA title.

“We are the first team in Gonzaga history to do it,” senior goalie Nick Gerlach said. “We were saying that the entire week — get the triple crown. This is something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Both teams enjoyed several upset wins to reach the state title game. The No. 5-seeded Eagles defeated top-ranked Wilson (with a score of 3-1) and No. 4 Bell (3-0), while No. 6 St. Albans took down No. 3 Roosevelt (2-0) and No. 7 Georgetown Day (1-0).

In the championship game, both teams showed underdog grit. Gonzaga, however, generated more sustained offense throughout, while St. Albans (11-8-2) was more frazzled in its offensive approach.

The Bulldogs’ frantic pace was rewarded when sophomore Mikey Brady slipped through the Eagles defense for a score and a 1-0 lead in the second half.

That frustrated Gonzaga and helped lead to Smith earning a yellow card. Despite the early angst, Smith was able to regain his composure to deliver the game-saving goal that sent the game into overtime.

“My team and coaches told me to keep my head, and I wanted to help the team out as a senior,” Smith said. “I was just really happy that we were able to come back and win it.”

While Gonzaga needed every moment of regulation to score, the Eagles easily found the back of the net during penalty kicks — Teuschl, senior Peter Dernelle, Smith and sophomore Ryan Elie all knocked in shots. Meanwhile, St. Albans hit its first four as senior Trevor Child, junior Harry Moore, sophomore Jack Muoio and junior Alden Summerville booted in their shots.

In the final round, Brady — the Bulldogs’ top scorer, who had the team’s lone goal in regulation — stepped to the line. But Gonzaga goalie Nick Gerlach perfectly tracked the ball and denied the shot.

“It was a mental game,” Gerlach said. “I saw the way he lined up and the way he ran to the ball. I knew where he was going.”

It was redemption for the Colgate-bound senior, who had to miss the majority of the WCAC title game after getting an early red card.

“It was rough,” said Gerlach. “To bounce back from that and win here was amazing.”

The block set up Gonzaga senior Beakal Sebsebe, who knocked in the deciding score.

“I just stayed calm the whole time,” said Sebsebe. “Yesterday I thought about where I would go if it came down to penalties.”