Will Frierson fended off Northwestern High longer than could be expected Saturday night.
The Spring Valley goalkeeper saw the aggressive Trojans fire 15 of the game’s first 17 shots over the first 60 minutes of play in the Class 4A championship match at USC’s Stone Stadium.
He made a rolling save. He saw a couple sail just over his head and the cross bar. He saw two get by him only to miss the goal net when they hit the post and the foot of one of Frierson’s teammates.
Finally, 62 minutes into the game, Northwestern’s Ricardo Garbanzo solved Frierson to give Northwestern a goal that led to a 2-0 win and the state championship.
Defending state champion Spring Valley (25-1), ranked No. 1 in the country a few weeks ago by one national poll, saw a 35-match winning streak snapped by an opponent that had superior firepower.
“They were just a little quicker tonight,” Spring Valley coach Dave Clark said. “In soccer, momentum is so important. They got the momentum and they kept driving on it. They played very direct and we didn’t feel like we played like we were capable of.”
The Trojans (23-2), the 2006 state champion who lost to Spring Valley in last year’s final, so dominated play that it had 15 shots on goal before the Vikings were credited with their second.
“The key for us today and one of the three points I stressed was believing in the system,” Northwestern coach Dom Wren said. “The system we have here in place at Northwestern fits our players and our strengths and weaknesses. We ran the system today better than we have for a long, long time.”
It allowed the Trojans, who entered the game ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 14 nationally, to avenge a pair of gut-wrenching losses to Spring Valley. One came via a 3-2 score one year ago in the state final. Another came April 21 at Rock Hill, a 2-1 decision that the Vikings won on penalty kicks.
“I’ve never forget the feeling of last year,” Northwestern junior defender Zack Clark said. “Everyone remembers last year. The hurt and everything. The worst day of my life. This is the best day of my life. This is the whole season and what we worked for.”
The Trojans finished with 19 shots to Spring Valley’s four.
After Garbanzo scored the game’s first goal with 18 minutes to play, the Vikings increased their aggressiveness the best they could. A play with 3:55 to play, with the Trojans still up 1-0, epitomized Spring Valley’s night.
Thomas Wollersheium, who scored both Spring Valley goals in a 2-0 victory against Wando in Tuesday’s Lower State final, was held without a shot for 76 minutes. His first shot on goal came from 16 yards out, when he spun and fired a shot that beat Northwestern goalkeeper Ryan Foster.
But it sailed wide right of the goal.
Less than two minutes later, Northwestern all-state forward Enzo Martinez scored to Frierson’s right and the celebration was on for the Trojans.
“We wanted it,” said Martinez, a junior who assisted on Garbanzo’s goal. “We wanted it bad. We knew if we gave it all we had we would come out with the win. That’s what gave us the win. Our heart. Our heart.”
Goals: Ricardo Garbanzo, Enzo Martinez. Goalkeepers: Frierson (SV), Foster (N). Rec: N 23-2, SV 25-1
Reach Wiseman at (803) 771-8472