Boys soccer: Bulldogs edge Pella on penalties

Apr. 19—OTTUMWA — It was a win so nice, the Ottumwa High School boys soccer team celebrated it twice.

First, there was the dog pile right in front of the goal as the Bulldogs mobbed sophomore goal keeper Luis Ramos Bonilla for making what appeared to be the match-clinching save in the fifth and final round of a penalty-kick shootout with Pella on Thursday night.

That celebration, however, was short-lived. Officials ruled that Bonilla had his feet off the goal line at the time Pella senior Austin Bone sent his shot towards the net. Bone was given a second chance to extend the shootout, doing so with a goal that tied the score at 3-3.

That was the good news for Pella. The bad news is the last player to kick was wearing a red Ottumwa uniform that had already found the back of the net once.

Yeferson Rodriguez Mendoza set off the second and final celebration by the Bulldogs at Schafer Stadium, smoothly burying a shot on the right side of the goal. Once again, the Bulldogs swarmed Bonilla in celebration of another impressive win as Ottumwa knocked off the Little Dutch, 4-3 on penalties, after the teams played to a 1-1 tie after two 40-minute halves and two 10-minute overtime periods.

"I knew I was going to be able to finish that and win the game for us," Mendoza said after scoring in the fifth and final round of the shootout. "I'm very happy to score two goals and help our team win."

Mendoza had the only shot on goal for the Bulldogs in the opening half of the match. It was all that Ottumwa would need to take a lead into the second half as the junior found the side of the net on a breakaway off a Pella turnover in the sixth minute, giving the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.

"Denis (Castro) happened to win a ball there," Mendoza said. "I made that run diagonally and Denis caught me running with a thru-ball."

Mendoza's goal held up for most of the match as the decisive goal as Pella struggled to find the back of the net despite owning a significant edge in shots and chances over the Bulldogs. The Little Dutch managed to challenge Bonilla only twice in the first half despite taking nine shots and were stymied even more with more direct opportunities for most of the second half by the OHS net minder.

"Luis is just a smart player. You can't say enough about his game management and his ability to stop shots," Ottumwa head boys soccer coach Andy Maw said. "He knows when to wait to pick up the ball, especially if we're in the lead, to kill some time off the clock. I feel really confident in our chances just because of who our goal keeper is."

Pella was finally able to break through with under 10 minutes left in regulation. Teddy Apostolopoulos took a pass from Carson Leathers and made a run into the box before finally getting a shot past Bonilla with 9:26 remaining, tying the match at 1-1.

"We noticed we were getting overpowered on the wings in the first half, so we made a change in formation to shore that up," Maw said. "We did pretty well managing that. We just had a momentary lapse in what was happening, but it wasn't a formation change. The boys ran that really well.

"We also made another formation change going into overtime. The boys have shown they're very smart and able to adapt well to sudden changes."

Despite a 19-5 edge in total shots in regulation, it was Ottumwa that had the last chance to win the match in the final seconds. Abel Gebermariam's strike from 25-yards out was handled by Pella goal keeper Tristan Huckstep, sending the match into overtime.

The Little Dutch (3-6) owned a 7-2 edge in shots during the two overtimes, including a run that nearly resulted in penalty-kick opportunity with Justin Seeba nearly directing a ball right into the hands of Bonilla. The Bulldogs hung tough, seeking to follow up a 4-1 win on Monday over eighth-ranked (3A) Ames by knocking off another tough program at home on Thursday.

"This is probably our toughest week because of the number of matches and the caliber of teams that we're playing," Maw said. "It's going to get harder and harder every day. We're going to have to continue to come out strong."

Bonilla gave Ottumwa a strong start in the penalty kick shootout, stopping Max Lauman on Pella's first chance. The shootout remained scoreless, however, after one round when Jonatan Villatoro's shot missed high for Ottumwa.

Chase Hamilton gave Pella a 1-0 lead with goal in round two. Ramon Hernandez answered, stepping up to the challenge by putting home Ottumwa's first goal of the shootout tying the score at 1-1 through two rounds.

"Ramon asked me if he could take that shot," Maw said of Hernandez. "When you've got a player with the confidence to ask for opportunity like that, chances are he's going to convert."

Bonilla made the decisive save of the shootout, stopping Apostolopoulos in round three before a goal by Oscar Rodriguez put Ottumwa up 2-1. Ethan Argueta answered a tying goal by Kolton Messer, putting the Bulldogs (5-2) on the verge of the win.

Bonilla initially stopped a shot by Bone, seemingly clinching a 3-2 shootout win for Ottumwa. Admittedly offsides, Bonilla could not stop Bone's second chance, leaving the heroics to Mendoza on the 10th and final kick of the shootout.

"We're not a team that's going to score a ton of goals, but we're a team that's been improving steadily every week," Maw said. "We've just got to keep grounded. We can't just show up and expect to win. We have to continue to be mentally focused and know we're going to have to play a perfect match to make something of this."

Ottumwa closed out the busy week welcoming in second-ranked (3A) Des Moines Hoover for an Iowa Alliance south division battle on Friday night. The Bulldogs are back on the road on Tuesday at winless Waterloo East.

"We can celebrate this for a little while, but we've got to be ready to get back in the trenches almost immediately," Maw said.