MANDAN, N.D. — Fargo Davies waltzed into its third straight appearance in the state soccer tournament championship match with a 1-0 shootout win over East Region regular season champion West Fargo Sheyenne on Tuesday at Starion Field in Mandan.
Davies junior goalkeeper Jensen Waltz was stellar in nets for the Eagles, who are hoping to snap a two-year losing streak and win their first title tonight. Their opponent: Bismarck High, which beat Davies 2-1 for the 2017 title.
Waltz had eight saves through two halves and two 10-minute overtime sessions. Many of those stopped point-blank shots, including a kick save against Kayden Aberle in the shootout. Jackson Kuznia hit the crossbar, while Hussein Mohamed and Melvin Dennis scored.
Davies won the shootout 4-2 on goals by Pablo Nunex Perez, Mohammed Ali, Jack Anderson and Kaleb Glover. Glover’s shot into the right corner against Sheyenne goalie Cooper Svaleson was the match-winner.
“That’s knowing how their bodies line up and knowing where they are going to shoot,” Waltz said.
This one reminded Davies head coach Ian Costello of the 2017 semifinal, won in a shootout as well.
“It was a flashback to a couple years ago. I felt less nervous because I had been there a couple of years ago,” Costello said. “It was a fantastic game played by Sheyenne.”
Sheyenne had coasted into the semifinals with an 8-1 win over Mandan. But Waltz consistently turned away great scoring chances by the Mustangs.
“He’s just got an intuition where he needs to be on those point-blanks shots,” Costello said. “He’s put himself in a fantastic situation.”
The first half ended in a scoreless tie, thanks mainly to the play of Waltz in the net. With Sheyenne pressing play into its offensive zone for much of the half, it was left up to the Davies’ keeper to maintain the clean sheet.
Waltz’s biggest stop of the half came in the ninth minute when he came out to play a breakaway by Aberle, who had scored three times in the Mustangs’ win over Mandan on Monday. This time, Aberle took a hard shot right at the sliding Waltz, who smothered the ball. “That’s just anticipating where you think they are going to go and in the momentum deciding (where to go),” Waltz said.
That stop came seven minutes after Waltz had gobbled up a header by Dennis on a crossing pass into the box.
Davies became more aggressive late in the half, making several runs deep into Sheyenne territory. With five minutes left in the half, Ali took a seemingly harmless shot that worked toward the net and past Cooper Svaleson only to bounce off the goal post.
A day before, Ali had assisted on two goals 2 minutes, 20 seconds apart in the second half, both by Eric Bimenyimana, in a 2-1 win over Century.
On Tuesday, Waltz had five of his eight saves in the first half. The Eagles, however, had some good chances, but put only two shots on Svaleson in the entire match — both in the first half.
But with Waltz in net, Costello had a good feeling.
“The past three years I’ve had two pretty stud goalies and didn’t know what was going to happen this year,” Costello said. “There was a little bit of competition and he stood up and won it. He’s won us games.”
The match was the third this season between Davies and Sheyenne. The Eagles won 3-2 and Sheyenne notched a 2-0 win in the prior matchups.
Davies lost 2-1 to Bismarck in 2017 and 1-0 to West Fargo in 2018.
This will be the first time Waltz will be in the net.
How’s Waltz approaching the title match?
“Nervousness, of course, but just being ready,” he said.
History may be leaning toward the Demons as the last five titles have gone to West Fargo, Bismarck, West Fargo, Bismarck and West Fargo.