By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — With or without its starting goaltender, Traverse City West is moving on to the district finals.
The Titans led 2-0 in the 17th minute of Wednesday’s Division 1 district soccer semifinal against rival Traverse City Central, then held on for a 2-1 victory to advance to Saturday’s finals.
“Seventy minutes of calm and 10 minutes of chaos,” West coach Carmien said.
And then a little more of a storm after the game, as Titans senior goaltender Justin Kraft made obscene gestures to the Central crowd.
Carmien said Kraft’s status for Saturday’s district final will be decided later.
“It’s one of those things where we have to take a look,” Carmien said. “I don’t have any information and I’m not going to deal with it (Wednesday). I’ll deal with it (today). I’ll sit down and see what happened. Emotions run high in these games. It’s the third game of the year (against Central). People don’t understand how difficult it is for teenage boys to go into this environment three times in a year. And when your season is on the line, it’s even more so. Justin played very well, but we’ll take a look.”
If Kraft is suspended for Saturday’s final at the winner of today’s Midland Dow-Saginaw Heritage game, junior Noah Withey would likely start in net in his place.
Kraft had six saves in Wednesday’s victory and seemed unapologetic when confronted on the field about his conduct by West athletic director Patti Tibaldi.
“Let’s focus on the positives,” Carmien said. “It was a great game and great to move on in the district tournament, and hopefully Saturday we can get a district title.”
West (13-6-3) scored fairly early, as senior Christien Geiger struck on a run up the right side off a long Marvin Lentz pass in the 11th minute.
“Marvin played a great ball from almost half and just played it behind the defense and I had to run under it and take a one-hit shot and it went in far bar,” Geiger said.
The Titans went up 2-0 on Alex Patten’s goal off a Nico Ragel assist.
Eight minutes before the half, Kraft soared to snatch the ball away from Central’s Adam Stepan and preserve the two-goal lead going into intermission with West holding a 5-3 advantage in shots on net.
“We came out from the opening kickoff and controlled the game and defended very well,” Carmien said. “We got two really nice goals from Christien and Alex. And for much of the second half — even we were on the back foot as far as them having more of the ball — we were fine and kept it in front of us. The last 10 minutes, things just got crazy. We fouled a lot and got up restarts. They get a goal and then things happen at the end.”
With 2:31 remaining, Central’s Reilly deTar capitalized on an Owen Stratton assist to pull the Trojans within a single score.
“We gave ourselves a chance in the the last couple minutes to make it pretty exciting,” Central coach Ron Boynton said.
Trojans netminder Carl Gardner made seven saves in a game in which each team was given two yellow cards.
Last year, Central knocked West out of the playoffs with a shootout victory.
“We didn’t want another shootout,” Geiger said. “Too much stress.”
“This is year 17, and I take them one at a time,” Carmien said. “I try not to look back too much. But to win here is special and it’s special for these seniors.”
West has 12 seniors on its squad, and 10 for Central played their final high school game.
“It was nice,” Geiger said. “Being a senior, it’s a lot different this year.”
“They came with a lot more energy than they came with a week ago,” said Boynton, whose team had defeated West 3-0 last week. “They came extremely hard. They had great effort. They deserved to win. They got a good result because they worked hard enough to get it. They came out high energy and we weren’t quite ready to answer that tone they set.
“A couple kids on their team who played really well and made a difference were Nico (Ragel) — he played really well and got really involved in the game — and Hunter Lumsden. They both did a really good job. They stood out.”
Aside from Kraft, West also could be without midfielder Austin Sanders, who hurt his ankle with 6:39 remaining after a collision with Stepan.
“I think he hurt his ankle,” Geiger said. “It got twisted when a kid came in for a slide tackle. His ankle got twisted bad, but I think he’ll be OK.”
Sanders had to be carried off the field and wasn’t putting weight on his left leg. He was on crutches by the end of the game.
Central finishes the season 13-8-2. West hasn’t played Saginaw Heritage this season and tied Midland Dow 2-2 early in the year.