Fritz' goal and defensive play sparks Shanley to state soccer title game
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Posted by: Administration
Jacob Reinholz of Shanley cuts between Gabriel Borowicz, left, and Menkeh Mendin of Fargo South to get to the ball during the Friday, Oct. 14, 2016, semifinal game of the North Dakota state boys soccer tournament at Shanley High School. Dave Wallis / The Forum
FARGO—Jacob Fritz isn't your tallest soccer player. But he played big Friday, Oct. 14, to help Fargo Shanley reach another championship game at the North Dakota state boys soccer tournament.
Described as the rock of the defense that limited Fargo South to few chances to score, Fritz also scored the game's only goal as Shanley claimed 1-0 semifinal win on its home field at Sid Cichy Stadium.
Fritz is one of 10 Shanley seniors who are focused on claiming a state championship, after losing title games the last two seasons. Shanley, now with 19-0-2 record this season, last suffered a loss in last year's title game against Bismarck.
"Those losses are definitely in the back of our minds," said Fritz. "We want to rewrite history."
Fritz, all 5-foot-8 of him, had a big part in getting Shanley in position to do just that for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. championship game.
With 20 minutes and 33 seconds remaining of the first half, Fritz got in position to score off Max Busch's corner kick. It was Michael Noah who headed Busch's kick to Fritz in front of the goal. Fritz then kicked the ball into the bottom right side of the net.
"I knew Mike would win that ball," Fritz said. "So I just got in position, boxed my guy out and the ball came right to me."
That is all Shanley needed to beat the South—one of the two teams this season that tied the Deacons this season. That was a 1-1 tie at South on Sept. 1, about 10 days after Shanley had a 0-0 tie with Jamestown. Ever since, Shanley has won every game—including a 4-0 win over South on Sept. 29.
"We know they like to play the game 100 miles-per-hour and that's what they did," Fritz said of South, who will take a 9-6-4 record into Saturday's third-place game. "So you really got to play possession ball against a team like that."
And that's exactly what Shanley did—even though Fritz thought his team could have played better.
In the first half, Shanley had five corner kicks, three free kicks and three hard shots on goal in the final five minutes. Meanwhile, South had only one corner kick and one free kick. And when South's Abdalazizi Lubungo broke free, Fritz cut in front of him to break up a possible shot on goal.
Shanley dominated even more in the second half. The few times South threatened, Fritz always seemed to be in the right spot to kick the ball away. He also broke up another Lubungo breakaway midway through the second half.
"He is the rock back there on defense," Shanley coach Ryan Christianson said of Fritz. "I can always count on him. He just keeps going and going."
Fritz, who said he never gets tired and just plays on adrenaline, said his goal on defense is simple: Don't let the ball get to goalkeeper Jared Fowler. The Deacons reached that goal as Fowler had only three saves.
"We have all the confidence in Jared, but if he has a quiet night, that's a good sign," Fritz said.
The only other sign Fritz and his teammates are thinking about now is one that reads: 'state champions.'
"These seniors really want it," Christianson said. "We just have to play the Shanley game that we know how to play ... a lot of poccessing the ball. Just get the job done."
FIRST HALF: 1, Sh, Fritz (M. Noah), 19:27.
SECOND HALF: No scoring.
SAVES: So, O'Keeffe 7. Sh, Fowler 3.