Upstart Huskies upend powerful Hoyas to reach NCAA Men’s Soccer Final with Shorewood grad on the team

Monday, December 13, 2021

By Tar C Aw

The #2 ranked Washington Huskies (18-1-2) were figuratively and literally in unfamiliar territory as they entered the semi-final of the NCAA Division I Men’s College Soccer playoff, held at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. 

The UW program had never advanced beyond the quarter-final stage in their history, but they clinched a spot in the College Cup Final Four by dispatching #10 seed St. Louis Billikens a week ago, 2-0. 

Before them stood the mighty #3 Georgetown Hoyas (18-2-1), who had not only won an NCAA Championship two years ago, but also eliminated the Huskies in 2019. Their blue supporters greatly outnumbered the purple faithful, and were loud and noisy, creating a seething cauldron to endure in order to play for the coveted trophy.

The first half was a defensive tussle, with both offenses effectively neutralized by disciplined defenses stifling even the suggestion of a shot on goal. The Hoyas had the better amount of possession, with the Huskies content to absorb pressure and mount swift counter-attacks. But the defenses held the upper hand, snuffing out any attacks, ending the first 45 minutes deadlocked at nil-nil. 

The #8 Clemson Tigers lie in wait of the winners, who had tied the #4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish 1-1 in the other semifinal, and had to grind out double OT and a PK shootout to stake a place in the final. It looked like this match was also destined to go the distance, with both teams evenly matched, both giving not an inch of ground.

It would take some outrageous luck or magical skill to break this stalemate, and so it proved in the second half. In the 54th minute, what looked like another futile cross into the box by junior midfielder Lucas Meek (Mercer Island HS) towards target man Gio Miglietti, took a slight deflection off the shin of GU defender Kenny Nielsen to bounce awkwardly into the goal for a 1-0 lead. 

This was a goal Nielsen was not eager to claim, and gladly allowed Meek to be credited with the shot. 

Sensing the shift in momentum, the Huskies turned up the offensive pressure, probing the defense, with several thrusts down the right flank. As the Hoyas settled into the box with 5 defenders repelling any through balls, junior fullback Charlie Ostrem (Shorewood HS) received a pass in the 57th minute just outside of the 18-yard box. 

He touched it to his right, launched a sublime strike above the heads of the defensive line into the top right corner, beyond the reach of the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead. Ostrem, a homegrown product from Richmond Beach, was better known for his assists and defensive prowess, made a world-class attacking shot worthy of a Messi or Ronaldo, was the man of the moment, and now, local hero.

In the span of four minutes, the Huskies had a stranglehold on the match, but there was still more than half an hour to go, and the Hoyas were not going to go quietly. They had no choice but to emerge from their defensive formation and venture forward with greater urgency. 

Could U-Dub withstand the pressure, hold off Gee-U, and defend their advantage? As the clock wound down to the 80th minute, the Hoyas pressed forward yet again, launched a precise cross-field ball from the left side towards the far post, to be met smartly by the head of attacking midfielder Zach Riviere that stalwart goalie Sam Fowler (Issaquah HS) got a hand to, but could not keep out of the net, to cut the deficit to 2-1. 

The last ten minutes were a spine-tingling frenzy of back-and-forth as Georgetown piled on the pressure. With 8 seconds left in regulation, they get a long-distance free-kick that arcs high into the box, and as Washington defenders desperately try to push it away, it falls to that man Riviere, unmarked at the penalty spot, but his first-time volley sails harmlessly over the bar.

Joy is unrestrained, especially for long-suffering family and friends in the stands, whose journey started out 14 years ago on the turf fields of the Shoreline recreational soccer league.

No matter what happens on Sunday, this team has already stamped their names in the history of athletic achievements in the UW pantheon. 


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