OTTAWA – The Sterling Golden Warriors found themselves tied with the host Ottawa Pirates on Wednesday night 25 minutes into their Class 2A Ottawa Regional semifinal at King Field.
Things changed in a hurry from that 1-1 tie, however.
Ottawa – the sub-sectional No. 6 seed – put in two more goals before halftime, and then scored three more in the second half to advance to its own regional championship game with a 6-2 victory over No. 4-seeded Sterling.
The Pirates advance on to Saturday’s 3 p.m. championship match against Rock Island, a 6-1 winner over Morris in the late-running early semifinal. Sterling sees its season come to a close with a record of 9-13-2.
“The core of this team is very young and inexperienced, so we have been learning on the job all season,” said Sterling coach Brian Cebula. “Credit to Ottawa, they played deep defensively, kept our No. 1 scorer in front of them – swarming three of four guys around him – and had a great game plan.
“We made some adjustments at halftime, but we gave up some goals that followed our mistakes. Ottawa really took advantage of their experience tonight."
Adrian Herrera provided Sterling with its lone first-half strike, a quick direct-kick score in the 10th minute off a foul which tied the game at 1-1.
Ottawa, though, countered with three more goals over the opening 40 minutes, those coming courtesy of Mateo Mendez, Gio Resendez and Tyler Robertson. The Pirates led in shots on goal at halftime by a 7-3 margin.
Herrera notched his second tally of the match to close the gap to 3-2 just 8 minutes into the second half when he tracked down a lead pass and fired a 20-yard shot into the back of the net.
From there, the Pirates used a Resendez penalty kick 7 minutes later, then additional late goals to move on.
Sterling sophomore keeper Sergio Garcia had six saves in net as the Golden Warriors were outshot 18-14, including 12-8 in on-target attempts.
“We switched up our formation in the second half and had some really good opportunities, but Ottawa just did a great job of playing physical and were not giving up anything through the middle of the field," Cebula said. "Their defense was really good tonight.”