The final nine minutes of Fountain Valley’s quarterfinal game against Loveland Classical did not sit well with the Danes.
“That might have been one of the scariest experiences of my life,” said freshman Hugh Sperber.
But despite an uneasy feeling, Class 2A No. 3 Fountain Valley came away with a narrow 1-0 boys' soccer win over the No. 11 Lions, thanks in part to Sperber’s efforts.
The game was scoreless late with Loveland Classical’s junior keeper Tobias Hild holding his ground against a barrage of Fountain Valley shots.
But in the 72nd minute Sperber broke the line off a ricocheted shot from junior Phan Doa that hit the crossbar and out.
With the win Fountain Valley moves on to Saturday's state semifinals at Englewood to face No. 10 Ridgway, which upset No. 2 Crested Butte 3-1. The Danes are the highest-seeded team remaining in the tournament.
Wednesday marked the first game for Sperber since he returned from a concussion after missing the final two games of the regular season. As a freshman Sperber said he couldn’t shake the nerves, but knew his team was playing with all heart, especially in the second half.
The host Danes had a few opportunities in the waning minutes to give themselves a two-goal lead but Hild stayed strong as his offense attempted to find the equalizer late.
But Jacob Thomassen wasn’t ready for his senior season to be over. He had stopped three shots in the final minutes, and cried tears of joy when the final horn sounded.
“I was terrified to be honest,” Thomassen said. “It is my senior year and it would have been my last minute of play ever if we didn’t win the game, so it was really kind of a ‘life on the line’ situation.”
Thomassen finished with 10 saves in his eighth shutout of the season.
Despite the win, Fountain Valley coach Kevin Ray focused on opportunities lapsed, especially in the first, half which kept the Lions in the game late.
“We had a number of opportunities in the first half and we didn’t put them away. We have had this problem all season,” Ray said. “By not putting those away we put some wind under their sails and their keeper was able to come out with some confidence. That’s an issue and now moving to the semifinals we have to finish our chances.”
Ray added that Thomassen has bailed the offense out when scoring droughts arise after improved play in his first season as a varsity starter.
“He has really come into his own this season and he has some great leadership. He has kept us in games when we should have been able to put games away and we have needed that,” Ray said. “It looked like he did it with ease but he is the kind of kid that doesn’t back down from a challenge so it’s big time for him.”