Westside Boys Soccer Exits Metro Tournament Early in Heartbreaker


Mary Nilius

Sophomore Coehen Rusin sends a free kick up the field

After being the top seed in the Metro Conference tournament, the Westside boys varsity soccer team was upset by Omaha Bryan 1-0 in the quarterfinals. The Warriors ended the tournament with a 1-1 record, changing their overall record to 7-2.

In the opening round, Westside was scheduled to play the winner of the Omaha Northwest and Bellevue East matchup, which would become the 16th seeded team. Though neither team scored a goal, Bellevue East took the go-ahead win and prepared to play the Warriors the next night. Due to inclement weather, all first round matches scheduled for Thursday, April 7 were postponed until Friday. The weather delay also forced an elimination of all consolation games, so a single loss would end a team’s run within the tournament.

On Friday, the Warriors readied themselves for a match at Phelps Field against the Chieftains. Bellevue East had a record of 1-7 going into the tournament. Their only win had been another go-ahead win resulting from a 4-4 match against Omaha Northwest. Westside head coach Mike Dean didn’t want his players to look at the Chieftains’ record and see an easy opponent and a match where they could slack off.

“We want to perform at our highest level no matter what opponent we’re facing,” said Dean. “As a high seed, sometimes you overlook your opponent and it can get you off track. Before metros, we really had a challenging schedule, so our focus going into the first game was to not overlook the opponent and take it one game at a time.”

Westside had the advantage over Bellevue East early and were able to maintain possession of the ball throughout most of the game. After putting points on the board early, some of the less-experienced Warriors were able to take the field and gain some playing time on varsity. Bellevue East managed to score in the second half, but didn’t have the momentum to come back. Westside beat Bellevue East 5-1 to move into the quarterfinal round of the tournament. Westside senior Luke Van Belle, like most of the team, was eager to shift his focus beyond the win.

“We just focused on our style,” Van Belle said. “We needed to win to move on, and we did. Our mentality shifted towards the next game.”

Westside’s next game would be against Omaha Bryan. The Bears were ranked 9th before the season started by Omaha World Herald writer Nick Rubek. Bryan dropped out of the top ten in late March after losing two matches, including one to Westside. Once again, Westside couldn’t afford to overlook the Bears because of a previous encounter on the field.

“The one thing I was worried about after the Bellevue East game was overlooking Bryan because Gretna was next,” said Dean.

The Warriors and Bears were very evenly matched for most of the game. Both teams remained scoreless after the second half and through the first overtime. It wasn’t until the 108th minute of play that Bryan forward Francisco Barajas managed to get the ball past Westside keeper Adam Hjemvick to score the only goal in the game. The loss ended Westside’s run as the No. 1 seed in the Metro Conference Tournament. Coach Dean was able to point out both high and low points from the game.

“I thought our possession was really good during the Bryan game,” Dean said. “The ball movement and speed of play were getting better and better. They played a low block, which is a lot more defensive, and they were very challenging to beat in the last third. When we possess a lot and we stretch the field out, that sometimes opens us up to be countered. I thought that was pretty good for 108 minutes until we got scored on with two minutes to go. There were some really good positives in that game, but we started breaking down in the final third and it’s something that we’ll work on from now on.”

A low block defense is a defensive tactic where 6-8 players hang back on their end of the field to limit the amount of space allowed for another team’s offense. As a team, Westside couldn’t find the space to orient their offense and make a scoring shot.

The Warriors hope to finish their regular season strong and gain momentum into the NSAA Class A District Tournament. The pairings will be announced on Wednesday, April 27. The District tournaments will open play on Saturday, April 30.