Carson boys soccer falls in a shootout |

Carson boys soccer falls in a shootout

Mike Houser
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer

RENO ” It was perhaps the cruelest way for a team to lose a game and at the same time the most exhilarating way a team could win.

For the Carson Senators boys soccer team, its 1-0 loss to Galena (6-5 in penalty kicks) in the championship game of the NIAA Northern 4A Regional Championships Saturday at Damonte Ranch High School, was a dagger in the heart as its record-setting season came to an end.

Galena’s 6-foot-3 junior goalkeeper Max Giesler stopped Carson’s Ian Gunn and comebacking senior Trevor Johnson beat Senators keeper Brandon Briggs to the right side to give the Grizzlies their first-ever regional championship and first-ever trip to the Class 4A state championships, which begin next week in Las Vegas.

“It’s hard for all the seniors,” said first-year Carson head coach Nate Brigham, whose Senators set a state record with 18 team shutouts this season, surpassing the 17 of Truckee, which played 22 games in 1996. “It’s a hard way to end their career. We had nine starting seniors. This was our year to go to state. We played like it tonight.

“In the end, all we needed was one goal. We couldn’t come up with it. Brian (Duran) and Brandon and the whole back line did what they’ve been doing all year and kept (the Grizzlies) to no goals.”

Further research revealed that Briggs’ state record for career shutouts had increased to 34, including a season-record 19 this year. Briggs’ accomplishments surpassed the former career record of 29 set by Green Valley’s Chris Ancell (1999-2001).

Ancell was the prior season record holder with 14 shutouts in 1999.

Briggs finished the preseason, regular season and postseason with no goals allowed, with the exception of one own-goal.

Carson ended its season 16-2-1, while Galena improved to 13-4-4.

“It was a helluva year,” said Carson midfielder John Nuthall, who put Carson up 1-0 in penalty kicks when he beat Gielser on the upper right corner. “This was the best team I saw coming from Carson. It’s just unfortunate. Sometimes luck’s not on your side. Today it wasn’t.

“We deserved it (the loss). We didn’t do anything. People make it; people miss it. I missed it Wednesday. You don’t get lucky every time.”

Carson outshot Galena 15-7, including 7-1 in the first 40 minutes. The shootout went to seven shots before Johnson’s game winner.

“I don’t think fitness had anything to do with the loss,” said Brigham, whose Senators defeated Wooster 1-0 (3-1) in penalty kicks on Wednesday. “The first half we were completely dominant. We just didn’t finish. They came out strong in the second half, but we still had more than ample opportunities to put it in in regulation. When you go into PKs it’s 50-50. You want to win before you get there.”

For 10th-year Galena coach Marco Merlo, the victory couldn’t have been any sweeter. It’s the first time Galena has made it past the first round of the playoffs.

Galena and Carson split their two regular-season games. Each team won 2-0 when the other was missing two of its top players.

“With the goal differential, we knew today would be a little tighter ballgame,” Merlo said. “Carson’s a quality team. They have quality players at every position. It feels good, it feels good. We only practiced the first five guys. The second group I just asked guys if they felt confident.”

One of those guys was Johnson, who missed three-quarters of the year with an injured hip flexor and played only one half of the last regular-season game.

“He came though big time,” Merlo said. “It’s a great way for him to come back.”

In spite of the heartbreaking loss, Brigham said it wouldn’t detract from the Senators’ sensational season.

“Going to Vegas would’ve been great,” Brigham said. “Because of how we lost this game, it doesn’t change how dominant this team was this year. It’s the best team Carson’s seen in many, many years. Unfortunately it ended this way.”

Results weren’t in from Las Vegas, but even if they were Merlo said he had no idea who his team would be playing.

“I have respect for Carson entirely. I didn’t even look beyond this game.” said Merlo, whose Grizzlies have allowed six goals this year. “All season I’ve been promoting belief. If you believe, good things can happen.”

Unfortunately for Carson, if good things happen for one team, bad things happen to the other.

Galena will face either Las Vegas, Clark, Bishop Gorman or Eldorado on Friday in the first round of the Class 4A state championships at Bettye Wilson Soccer Complex at Cimarron-Memorial High School.