There’s a fine line between beautiful and ugly on the soccer pitch and Hamilton and Gilbert walked that line on Thursday in their 5A Division I boys state tournament semifinal at Campo Verde High School.
Beauty just couldn’t get a foothold in the game, as the Huskies endured the frustration of having one goal wiped out by an offsides penalty and three more would-be goals denied by outstanding defensive efforts by the Tigers.
Ugly, however, won out for Hamilton, as defender Zachary “Nasty” Nasipak fought his way to a free kick from teammate Daniel Arrubla and headed the ball into the net three minutes into the second half to lift Hamilton to a 1-0 win.
“Coach always taught us to hit it far stick to the big uglies,” Arrubla said of his swinging delivery into the goal box. “It found ‘Nasty’s’ head and he put it in.”
With the victory, Hamilton advances to the 5A-I title game against Brophy on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Campo Verde. It is Hamilton’s second straight trip to the finals and the second straight year the Huskies beat Gilbert in the semifinals.
“Every time we play Gilbert, it’s like this,” Hamilton coach Nick Markette said. “They are really, really good at putting teams under pressure. We’ve had a lot of great battles with them.”
Gilbert had very few good offensive chances on the night, but the Tigers were able to frustrate Hamilton. The game featured five yellow cards and plenty of rough play that raised the emotional level up a notch.
The Tigers’ best chance to tie the game came in the final minutes, as a throw-in from Ernie Gomez was bounced around in the penalty area and right to Gilbert goalkeeper Cody Schultz, who was brought forward to aid in the last-ditch attack. Schultz hit a shot that was headed toward the goal before bouncing off a Hamilton player and out of danger.
“If it was one, it was 1,000 of those long throw-ins that they got,” Markette said. “They know how to generate those.”
Hamilton thought it had generated some scoring early in the first half, as Bryan Suarez slid the ball past Gilbert goalkeeper Cody Schultz just eight minutes into the game. The Hamilton players all started celebrating the goal before turning and realizing the play had been wiped out by an offsides call.
“We checked the video and it showed he was onside,” Markette said. “But sometimes you don’t get the call.”
Later in the first half, Arrubla had another scoring chance wiped out, but this time by a hustling Gilbert defender Aaron Edwards. Arrubla had a wide open goal to shoot at, as Schultz had gotten drawn out off his line. Arrubla sent the ball heading toward the net, but Edwards slid in and cleared the ball away just a few feet from the goalline.
That wasn’t the end of Arrubla’s offensive frustrations, however. In a span of less than a minute, Arrubla had a breakaway shot deflected by a diving Schultz and then a rebound shot cleared out the same way by Schultz.
“Nineteen times out of 20, he buries those,” Markette said of Arrubla, “and it happened to him a couple times.”