CRETE – Losing four games in a row entering the postseason might not make a coach feel confident about his team’s chances.
Hastings boys soccer coach Mike Nanfito actually did, however.
The Class B, No. 10 Tigers came out and won a pair of games in the Class B, District 5 Tournament, including a 4-0 victory over Grand Island Central Catholic in the final Thursday at Doane College.
The win puts Hastings in the state tournament for the fifth time in six years.
Nanfito actually liked how the Tigers were playing, especially against the teams they lost to. They fell to No. 4 Lexington (3-2 OT), Columbus (2-1 in a shootout), state-qualifier Northwest (2-1) and Class A, No. 4 Kearney (3-1).
“Losing four games in a row isn’t good, but I actually felt we were playing well, even though we weren’t getting the wins,” Nanfito said. “Those were really good teams we were playing and we were in very one of those games. We ran into some problems but we know what we are capable of. We had great practices entering districts.
“If we can put it together and play like I know we can, we believe we can win any game and that’s what you saw today. The kids did a great job and I’m proud of them for what they did today.”
GICC was playing its third game in four days. Crusader coach Phou Manivong said that did play a toll a little bit in the game.
“I’m not one to make excuses, but playing three games in four days is brutal, and then add to that we got back around midnight last night as well,” Manivong said. “We played a tough game with Crete (a 2-0 victory) on Wednesday. I was a little worried about how we were going to react and we were flat to start the game.”
Hastings (9-8) took advantage right away. Evan Price kicked a pass off a corner and found Kayd Welke, who got the ball past Crusader goalkeeper Trevor Holen just 4 minutes into the game.
“That was a big energy boost for us to start the game,” Nanfito said. “I thought we were really energized during warm-ups and I asked the players if they can match that going into the game. They came in and got the ball through and got a nice finish. It was a great way to start the game.”
Manivong said it was a reversal for what the Crusaders experienced Wednesday against Crete, where they scored 37 seconds into the game.
“Kudos to Hastings, they came out with a lot of energy to start the game,” Manivong said. “That really motivated them to get that early goal and it caught us off guard a little bit.”
GICC had an opportunity to tie the game a few seconds later but Abidan Yax missed a kick high. It stayed that way for the rest of the first half, with Hastings controlling possession for most of it.
The Crusaders missed their best chance to tie the game right away after halftime. Jaden Palu was alone on the left side but he kicked it straight to Tiger goalkeeper Brady Menke, who had two saves.
“We had some opportunities to score and that one right there would have changed the complexion of the game,” Manivong said.
The Tigers scored a pair of goals in a span of seven minutes to put away any comeback the Crusaders had left.
First, Luis Pedroza kicked the ball into the back corner 3 minutes into the second half. Then Michael Sadd took advantage of a 1-on-1 opportunity to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead with 30 minutes left. Hastings scored its last goal on a Philip Pedroza off another assist from Price with six minutes left.
Nanfito said it’s a good feeling to be taking Hastings to the state tournament once again.
“It’s exciting to be where we are at and have the opportunity of going to the state tournament,” Nanfito said. “Now we get a chance to see what we can do down there.”
The loss ends the Crusaders’ season at 7-11 and their second district runner-up finish in three seasons. Manivong said it was a good season for GICC.
“I’m proud with how the guys played all season long,” he said. “They exceeded our expectations. Who would have thought we would have made it this far, winning two district games and making it to the district finals? Our seniors in Matt Reilly, Jeremiah Starostka and Nicholas Petsch did a great job leading the team. I’m definitely proud of how the season went.”