For all intents and purposes, Urbana freshman Trent Tarnstrom wasn’t supposed to be in the game during the closing minutes of regulation against River Hill Saturday in the 3A State semifinals at CCBC-Essex.
But when Tarnstrom got his number called, following teammate Spencer Allgaier receiving a yellow card, he decided he was going to make the most of it.
Converting a shot into the right side of the net off a feed from William Eskay with 34 seconds left in the second half, Tarnstrom lifted Urbana to a 1-0 victory and a berth in next week’s state championship game at UMBC against Northern.
“I feel like it was kind of meant to be. God put me in that position, I guess,” Tarnstrom said. “I kind of thought I was dreaming for a second there … I was actually thinking ‘like, did that really just go in?’ ”
Tarnstrom’s game-winning goal came at the tail end of a second half in which Urbana had seen a couple quality shots miss just wide and River Hill goalie Tomas Potts (7 saves) come through with several clutch stops.
But with each passing opportunity down the stretch, Urbana coach Scott Schartner said he became more and more confident that his team was due for a breakthrough.
“We all knew that because of the way we were playing, we were going to continue to generate opportunities … I felt confident that we were probably going to get one soon,” Schartner said. “When, I wasn’t sure, but 30 seconds left is pretty fantastic (time) to get one.”
While Urbana had the better of the offensive play for large stretches in the second half, River Hill was the one pressuring offensively in the first half. In one three-minute stretch during the middle of the half, River Hill’s Zach Riso and Chris Lee each had shots hit off the post.
The score ended up staying tied 0-0 into halftime, although River Hill coach Matt Shagogue said it had the feel of a game his Hawks should have been leading.
“I kept saying to (my assistant coach) Derrick (Jameson), ‘we’ve got to score something, we’ve got to get on one of these, whether it’s a deflection, the goal post or the keeper drops it’ … we had our chances,” Shagogue said. “We didn’t think we were going to shut them out by any means — of course that’s our goal and we did it for 79 minutes — but, yeah, we have to find a way to score.”
While Urbana upped its offensive pressure in the second half, River Hill still managed to keep the Hawks’ one-two punch of Eskay (26 goals) and Brett LaBonte (16 goals) in check. LaBonte, especially, had a couple quality chances nullified.
Just as the game seemed destined for overtime, however, Urbana’s Tarnstrom stepped in and delivered the decisive blow.
“It certainly wasn’t the most dangerous chance they had all game … but it doesn’t really matter if it’s a mistake. It was a good goal (for them) and just happened to happen at a really, really bad time for us,” Shagogue said. “We couldn’t make any change or adjustments (before time ran out).”
River Hill pushed up, but failed to generate another shot before time expired.
For Urbana, which lost in last year’s state championship game to Reservoir, there’s now a chance for a little redemption. And, although Tarnstrom wasn’t on last year’s team that fell short, the importance of a return trip to UMBC wasn’t lost on him.
“It felt good to do something and get them back to the finals where I think we’re going to win it all this year,” he said.