Fort Mill Times

Fort Mill boys work OT to reach title match

Fort Mill's Chris Landvik-Larsen fires a shot during the Jackets' 2-1 playoff win against Blythewood.
Fort Mill's Chris Landvik-Larsen fires a shot during the Jackets' 2-1 playoff win against Blythewood.

It wasn't exactly the way the Fort Mill High School boys soccer team expected the playoffs to work out.

But they were happy to take it.

The Yellow Jackets, who finished the season 15-5-1 and were second to Northwestern in region 3-AAAA, have taken advantage of every minute, and more, of their playoff experience.

The Jackets' opening round playoff match against Blythewood couldn't be decided in 40 minutes of regulation, after the two teams played to a 1-1 tie.

It couldn't be decided after 30 minutes of extra time.

So it came down to one of the most exciting, and for some, nerve-racking, events in sports - a shootout.

As the teams exchanged turns taking penalty kicks from the center of the box, it was Fort Mill, with four straight shots straight into the back of the net, that came away with the victory, stayed alive, and advanced into the second round.

They haven't wasted the opportunity either.

The Jackets went on to dispatch their second round opponent, Wren, in the allotted time period, but then, in their third round match, it again took 20 minutes of overtime to defeat Dorman, moving the Jackets within two wins of a state title.

"That was our first overtime game of the season, and our first shootout," Head Coach Lloyd Chalker said after the team's opening round victory. "I just told them to keep their composure and stay patient. That's what they did in the end."

Fort Mill more than doubled the Bengals' shot total in regulation and out-shot Blythewood 6-0 in the overtime periods.

Frustrations mounted as shot after shot sailed just wide of the goal or snuck over the top of the crossbar.

Ten minutes into the match, which seemed like hours before the dramatic ending, it was Landvik-Larsen who put the Jackets on top 1-0. After Blythewood goalkeeper Thomas Yarborough mishandled the ball, Landvik-Larsen slipped behind him for an easy, tap-in goal.

The two teams went into the break with the score 1-0, then Blythewood's Alex Craft, on the Bengals' first shot of the half, turned and fired the ball into the net to even the match.

As minutes on the clock ticked away, seniors Tyler Vukoder and Landvik-Larsen tried desperately to ignite the offense and knock in the final score, but the feisty Bengals defense, on their heels for most of the match, fought back to force the game into the shootout.

Chalker credited his seniors for holding the team together through the emotional game.

"Tyler and Chris both got going- got fired up, but they kept calm when they needed to," Chalker said. "We've been in a lot of 1-0 games. These guys are not nervous in a close game, they know how to play when the game is tight."

"We have quite a few seniors on this team and we really want to make it count in our last year," Landvik-Larsen said.

It was fitting that three of the four Fort Mill shooters in the final, best-of-five-shots showdown were seniors.

Vukoder, the team's captain, was up first and calmly knocked the ball into the lower right corner.

JT Mula and Andrew Parra followed with shots that sailed by the keeper.

After two of Blythewood's shots went high, it was Landvik-Larsen who stepped in to close it out, landing the ball in the upper-right corner of the net for the game-clinching shot.

Fort Mill fans, which had climbed down from the bleachers and lined the field, rushed onto the field to celebrate with the team after the nearly three-hour match.

"When I went up there I was just thinking about that goal," Landvik-Larsen said. "I was just thinking about the win, thinking about the next round."

For their second round matchup, Fort Mill traveled to fifth-ranked Wren Thursday and won 3-0.

Then,Fort Mill beat Dorman 3-2 in overtime Saturday to advance to the Upper State finals in the Class AAAA state soccer playoffs.

That meant the Yellow Jackets (18-5-1, 8-2-0) would square off with Northwestern Tuesday night for the right to play for the state championship. Northwestern swept Fort Mill 2-0 and 6-1 in two Region 3-AAAA regular season meetings.

"It wasn't our best game but I'm proud of the guys," Chalker said. "This is the farthest Fort Mill has ever been as a AAAA school, so they set a record tonight."

One minute into the first overtime, Landvik-Larsen scored on a shot from just inside the midfield line. Landvik-Larsen's shot took a short hop on Dorman keeper Zach Woolever, bounced off of his hands and into the net.

Dorman tied the game two minutes into the second overtime period with eight minutes remaining, but David Walas needed only one minute to score the game-winning goal for Fort Mill.

Walas found himself in the right place on a deflected corner kick and his shot sailed past the diving Cavaliers keeper. Fort Mill held off a late charge by Dorman and the celebration began.

"It got deflected and it just happened to fall to me perfectly and I hit it home," Walas said. "It's great that we've gotten this far, and we'll see if we can give (Northwestern) a good shot."

Eleven minutes into the second half, Fort Mill was able to take advantage of a rare opportunity. Vukoder found a hole in traffic in front of the net and got his head on the ball to give the Yellow Jackets a 1-0 lead.

The Cavaliers answered 10 minutes later on a breakaway by Rodrigo Reyes.

Fort Mill had two chances in the game's opening five minutes, but was unable to capitalize. Dorman stopped a rebound shot by Andrew Parra, and Christian Datz's point-blank shot for the Yellow Jackets sailed over the crossbar.

Herald correspondent David Hearne contributed