Gonzalez leads Gulf Coast into semifinals
Published 1:29 pm Monday, October 31, 2022
PERKINSTON — Ivan Gonzalez missed large chunks of Mississippi Gulf Coast’s men’s soccer season, and he showed Sunday how much the Bulldogs missed him.
He played a part in all the Bulldogs’ goals in a handy 4-1 win over Itawamba in the NJCAA Gulf South District quarterfinal at Bary Thrash Field.
“I did what I could for the team,” Gonzalez said. “It’s always about the team, and I’m grateful to be able to help them. I’m hoping we can help each other in the semifinal we have to look forward to now.”
He scored a goal, assisted on two others and won a penalty for the Bulldogs (9-5-2), who punched their ticket into the semifinals. They’ll face No. 12 Pearl River on Friday in Ellisville. Gametime is expected to be at 1:30 p.m. The bracket will be released Monday.
Pearl River beat East Central 3-0 Sunday night in Poplarville. No. 2 Jones, which won the MACCC title, had a quarterfinal bye and plays Hinds on Friday night.
Gulf Coast got to host because it finished a point ahead of Itawamba (9-5-2) in the regular season. The Bulldogs jumped all over ICC right out of the gate.
Gonzalez (So., Olive Branch/Olive Branch) was menacing down the right side from the start, and he won a penalty in the eighth minute. Hyungjoon Lee (So., Suwon, South Korea/Dongbuk) made it 1-0, then scored two minutes later after Gonzalez set him up. Lee’s 14th goal of the season came on Gonzalez’s third assist.
The Bulldogs made it 3-0 in the 17th minute when Gonzalez got his goal. Klaidas Pudlauskas (So., London, England/Gaynes School) picked up his fourth assist. It was the third Gonzalez goal in two games since he’s been back.
“Having Ivan back is great,” Gulf Coast coach Chris Handy said. “He’s the missing piece for us. We have a lot of weapons on this team, and he’s one of them. He’s missed most of the year, but since he’s been back, he’s been incredibly productive in the last couple of games. He gives us hope we can continue to play.”
ICC cut the Gulf Coast lead to two goals eight minutes into the second half, and things got a little dicey for the Bulldogs. Gonzalez put out the fire in the 65th minute, converting an Abdul Omar (So., Madison/Germantown) assist.
“We’re peaking at the right time,” Handy said. “We’re playing really well together. That’s what we’ve been looking for all year long, so to see them start to hit on all cylinders is great.”
Gulf Coast beat Pearl River 3-1 with a pair of second-half goals on Oct. 18 at Perkinston. That figures to be no advantage in Ellisville.
“Pearl River is always a rivalry game,” Handy said. “It feels like we play in the playoffs every single year. Matching up with them, throw the previous game out. We’re going to have to come out and fight harder and be completely clicked on.”
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