Instant classic sends No. 12 Pearl River to Gulf District Final
Dylan Dunaway - PRCC Sports Information Director
ELLISVILLE, Miss. — Dealing with injuries and sickness, the No. 12 Pearl River men's soccer team knew its back was against the wall in Friday's Gulf District Tournament semifinal against archrival Gulf Coast.
Moments before the overtime period began, injured team leader Dustin Cuevas (Picayune; Hancock) delivered a message to midfielder Christopher Dommer (Copenhagen, Denmark.).
"I told him he might have to go out there and win it by himself," Cuevas said. "He answered really quickly. He said, 'I'm prepared to do that.'"
Cuevas' message was indeed heard by the freshman as 45 seconds into the first period of overtime, Dommer delivered a goal to propel Pearl River to a 1-0 victory and a berth in the Gulf District Championship match.
"It was an important moment for the team," Dommer said. "We just knew that we had to get that goal. We were all so tired. We came out and gave everything we had, so it was important to get the goal."
Gallant talked about his star midfielder.
"How special of a player is Chris? That story says it all," he said. "Early in the season, he was doing nothing but getting assists. Now he is doing nothing but scoring goals. Just an absolutely amazing performance all around."
Gallant talked about what was different for Pearl River in today's match versus its last match against the Bulldogs.
"We implemented a new plan for today," head coach Drew Gallant said. "It wasn't our normal style of play, but the boys bought into it. (Assistant coach) Diego (Figueroa) did a great job preparing them for this week. I think their focus has been there all week. Our plan was good. Now, we have another plan we have to get in place within 48 hours."
With the victory, Pearl River moves to its third consecutive Gulf District Championship match and awaits the winner of Jones College and Hinds. The match, which is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, is for an automatic berth in the NJCAA Tournament and will be livestreamed at JCJC.TV.
"Any of our guys who played today, hats off to them," Gallant said. "We had three healthy starters in that lineup today. We have been dealing with injuries and sickness. This performance is one that I am extremely proud of. It's one of the best since I've been the coach.
"We've been here before where we had a quick turnaround after a hard-fought game. This will be our third straight trip to the finals. Hopefully, we can get a better result this time."
The Wildcats (12-3-1 overall) missed a great scoring chance in the 27th minute of the match. Dommer swiftly moved from the right side of the pitch to the left side, avoiding defenders all the way across. He found some space and sent a cross to Durron Myers (Gulfport) who tried to put a ball into the back of the net but instead skied it over the goal and out of play.
Luke Hopkins (Clinton) forcefully smacked a shot on goal in the 35th minute, but his hammer of a shot was blocked by a Bulldog (9-6-2) and sent flying away.
Down the stretch of the first half, Maddux Francis (Poplarville) was massive for the Wildcats, earning save after save and consistently making the right decisions on when to come out of the net.
Dommer (shown above) almost got on the scoresheet in the 53rd minute as he smashed a shot along the ground, but the MGCCC keeper got a foot on and was sent out of play.
With under two minutes left to play in regulation, the Wildcats had another opportunity to get on the scoresheet. A ball thrown in was headed straight up in the air by Hopkins and fell to the feet of Aden Smith (Biloxi). Smith's shot on goal was caught by the Gulf Coast Keeper to end the scoring chance.
45 seconds into the first overtime period, Dommer received a pass in the midfield and instantly started pushing the ball up the pitch. The international star weaved his way in and out of defenders before finally slotting a ball to the left of the MGCCC goalkeeper for the victory.
"I got the ball in the middle of the field, and I moved the ball forward," Dommer said. "I saw a gap that I could run through, and I took a touch to get by the defender. The goalkeeper was coming out and I just put it into the goal beside him."