A night of second chances

RM Boys soccer captures first regional championship in school history, defeating Whitman 4-3 in penalty shootouts

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Sophomore Solomon Snowdy makes the game winning save in the regional championship.

Ari Fine, Sports Editor

At the beginning of the season, sophomore Solomon Snowdy never thought he would be playing in a varsity soccer regional final, and he didn’t even know if he had a spot on the JV boys team roster. After getting cut in the third round of junior varsity tryouts, Snowdy realized he would have to return to his old position of goalie. The JV squad was without a starting goalkeeper, so Snowdy decided to pull his gloves out from the bottom of his bag, and make the best of the opportunity given to him. 

On Nov. 1, the Richard Montgomery Rockets defeated the Whitman Vikings in an unforgettable regional final. This was the first time RM had been in the regional finals in over a decade, and knowing this was a historic match, they did not disappoint, winning 4-3 in penalty shoutouts. 

When sophomore Max Sobel, the starting varsity goalie was injured on the last play of overtime, Snowdy got the call to come off the bench and finish out the game. The Rockets had been up one goal for the entire second half until, in the last minute of regulation, the Vikings finally put one in the back of the net to tie the score 1-1.

Whitman had multiple chances in the final minutes, with two shots hitting off the post.  Throughout the game, the Vikings were using free kicks and throw-ins to get opportunities in front of the RM goal. After winning the ball back with a minute left, a long throw-in from a Whitman winger made its way into the box and was headed past Sobel. 

All the energy within RM seemed to vanish as the ball hit the back of the net, and for the second time this season, Whitman had scored in the waning seconds of the game. This sent the 4A Regional Final into sudden death extra time, but for RM, they had been in this position before. Just four days earlier, RM defeated Churchill in a nail-biting overtime finish. Senior Jaheim Fabies scored three minutes in to send RM to the finals.

Four minutes into the sudden death period, the Rockets believed they had won. Senior Rhoi Phulsa scored off a long pass from the back line, but as soon as the team started to celebrate, the sideline referee called offsides on Phulsa. Both teams were unable to score in either of the two 10-minute extra-time periods and on the last play of overtime, Sobel was injured making a save.

As the game came down to penalty kicks, RM Coach Brian Urioste was forced to put in Snowdy. “I was petrified at first but then I looked at the crowd and my teammates and I knew that they needed me at my best,” Snowdy said. “I looked back at when me and my friend Alex Neeves (who was on the field with Snowdy at the time), would do PKs (penalty shots) at the park for hours at the time.”

Snowdy walks alone to the goal line, with RM’s season in his hands. (randybehindthelens)

Earlier this season, Whitman defeated RM on a last-second penalty shot during regulation, which was a devastating loss since RM had been in control for the majority of the game. But now, the penalty kick shootout meant more than just another check in the win column – it meant advancing to the state championship playoffs. 

The first penalty shot was taken by Whitman’s Luke Kullback. Snowdy guessed the right direction of Kullback’s shot but was a step too late, and Whitman was up 1-0.  The first shooter for the Rockets was senior defender Robert Boychyn, who confidently sent the ball right past the Vikings keeper. This evened up the score and brought up Whitman’s Kai Satriano. Before Satriano had even shot the ball, Snowdy was already leaning toward the right. Satriano’s shot went low right, and as he had predicted, Snowdy was right there for the save.

As the ball rolled away from the goal, the RM fans who made the journey to Whitman erupted out of their seats. This save gave the Rockets an early lead in the shootout, which always proves to be pivotal. The next five players all were successful, bringing the score to 4-3, with two shots remaining.

With RM up one shot, a save by Snowdy would end the game and bring the first soccer regional championship banner to the RM rafters. Whitman junior forward Tyler Coune stepped up to the dot with the Vikings season on the line. A goal would put the pressure back on the Rockets, and a miss would send the Rockets to the state quarterfinals. Facing him for the Rockets was a player who almost wasn’t even playing soccer this season.

After not making the JV team at first, Snowdy was faced with a decision. “I tried out as a center back during tryouts and made it to the final round,” Snowdy said. “I was chilling with my friend when I received the email that I was cut from JV. I remembered a had a natural talent with my reflexes and reaction, so I emailed Coach Chamy [Wijeratne] to ask for a tryout in goal.” The coach told him he would make no promises but he would give him a shot.

“I went to practice the next day with a pair of gardening gloves on and balled out. They only scored on me one time during a drill where they took over 30 shots.”

After this brilliant performance, Coach Wijeratne offered Snowdy a spot on the team, and he took it instantly.

Over the course of the JV season, Snowdy proved he had made the right decision. At the conclusion of the season, Snowdy was moved up to the varsity squad. Following an injury to junior keeper Jacob Swibel, he became the backup goalie of the team. 

Now, it was just him and Coune, with the bright lights shining down on Snowdy’s bright orange gloves, and a sense of calmness surrounding the field. Coune’s shot went low and hard to the bottom right corner, but as before, Snowdy was there for the save.

“I had an old strategy that I used to use….I would look the taker dead in the eye and watch where his eyes wander, which would give me an idea of where it going,” Snowdy said. “During the run-up, you can tell which foot they will use and that’s half of it. Then you look at their hips and ankle and you can tell where they’re going right before their shot.” 

As he leaped to the corner, his top hand reached up and knocked away Coune’s strike. The student section launched out of their stands, storming the field to celebrate the momentous victory with the team, chanting “Vamos Roquetas” all the way back to Rockville.