Acrobatic play ends Bulldogs' hunt for state championship

Sunday, November 22, 2009
Notre Dame goalie James Holloway punches a ball out of the box during Friday's Class 2 state semifinal against Bolivar in Fenton, Mo. (Kit Doyle)

FENTON, Mo. -- Notre Dame's extra-session luck finally ran out in Friday's Class 2 boys soccer state semifinal.

It took an acrobatic play by Bolivar's standout to smash the Bulldogs' chances for more overtime magic.

Bolivar's Matt Magana rocketed a throw-in using a flip to hit teammate Bradley Stillwagon, who headed home the game-winner with 2 minutes, 24 seconds left in the first overtime session. The goal lifted the Liberators to the 2-1 victory at the Anheuser-Busch Center.

"That one, I was aiming back post," Magana said. "I like to throw a couple at the keeper just to test him. He had been getting on all of them. Brad was standing there wide open and I had one of my guys going, 'Back post, back post.' Once I released it, it felt good. I knew it was in."

The loss ended a recent string of overtime success for the Bulldogs. They won all three of their Class 2 District 1 games in overtime, with the semifinal and title games going to penalty kicks. But their good fortunes ran out against the Liberators.

Bolivar senior Bradley Stillwagon (9) heads in the game-winning goal against Notre Dame in overtime Friday.

Magana used the flip throw-in throughout the game. What made the throw-ins even more impressive was that he didn't need to get a running start. He would take a step or two then flip and launch the ball deep down the field.

"It was just one day at my house, just messing around on my trampoline," Magana said of how he learned his flip throw-in. "I like to have fun and do crazy stuff. Messing around on my trampoline, I had a ball. I was like, 'Man, I think I could launch it.' I've done it ever since."

Magana chucked it across the box to Stillwagon on the far post.

"We've been working on the flip throw the whole game," Stillwagon said. "Matt finally got one back post and I was waiting for it. I got on it and put it back over the top and put it in the far side."

Notre Dame's Ethan Huber also uses a flip throw-in, but he needs a running start to make his. He was amazed that Magana didn't need a takeoff.

"I was surprised he could just stand there and throw it that far," Huber said.

Notre Dame midfielder Joe Froemsdorf said the long throw-ins were difficult to defend even though the Bulldogs knew Magana had them in his arsenal.

"The read on the ball is a lot different than a kick because he would launch from over his head," Froemsdorf said. "It's kind of hard to read."

Bolivar's goal came after the Bulldogs had dominated play for the final 15 minutes of the second half and most of overtime. But what would be a harmless throw-in for most teams turned into a potential opportunity for Magana to show off once again his acrobatic skills.

"You try to take away the guys who are most likely to score off that throw-in," Notre Dame coach Brad Wittenborn said. "We did a pretty good job of that for the most part. That's a pretty good weapon."

Notre Dame opened the scoring with 26:30 left in the second half after Bolivar almost scored. Notre Dame goalkeeper James Holloway was on the ground and the Liberators fired a shot toward the goal, but it hit Froemsdorf, who was standing on the goal line, in the stomach.

"It's a lot of luck, I think," Froemsdorf said. "James is a great keeper. He could have made that save diving. It got by him and I was just the one there to save it."

The Bulldogs counterattacked and Froemsdorf took a pass from Jack Mocherman and buried it from the middle of the box for the 1-0 lead.

But the Liberators answered about nine minutes later.

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