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Class A boys: Gretna downs Lincoln East to advance to state soccer final

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The Gretna team bus may have gotten stuck in traffic Friday night, but that was about all that went wrong for the Dragons.

The state’s top-ranked team scored early and often in a 4-1 win over No. 5 Lincoln East in the semifinals of the boys state soccer tournament at Morrison Stadium.

It pushes Gretna into Tuesday’s 8 p.m. championship match, the program’s first in Class A.

The start of the match was delayed 20 minutes after the Dragons arrived to downtown Omaha late.

Asked afterwards where the bus hit traffic, Gretna coach Tyler Ortlieb laughed and said “the whole way here.”

The Dragons dressed and began stretching on the ride and were prepared to start the match 15 minutes after stepping off the bus.

“But I think we might leave at 8 a.m. on Tuesday,” Ortlieb said.

His team made up for lost time in the sixth minute when forward Maguire Perkins took a pass ahead from fellow sophomore Mikey Stukenholtz all the way into the six-yard box before beating East keeper Brayden Bowens for a quick score.

It was the Class A leading 24th of the season for Perkins, and second in the tournament.

Gretna’s lead grew just before the midway point of the half on another zipping pass over the top, this one from Colin McClung to Tommy Sowinski, who chipped the keeper in a 1v1 situation for his sixth of the year.

East got one back in the just over four minutes into the second half when Aidan Nachi cleaned up a rebound in the mix, the 20th goal of his junior campaign.

The window for an upset closed quickly, though, as Brett Perkins went over the wall on a free kick from straight on and a couple of yards outside the box. The left-footed blast found the top shelf to restore Gretna’s lead.

The team captain was injured in Tuesday’s opening round win, and Ortlieb said he had questions afterwards about the availability of the team’s leader.

“I was glad to have Brett back,” Ortlieb said. “He brings a calmness to us.”

Asked afterwards if he was 100%, Brett Perkins — sporting ice and on his knee — said it didn’t matter.

“As a captain of this team it’s my responsibility to do the things that lead us to a state championship,” he said. “I thought defense, midfield and attackers did their roles, and I think that’s all we have to do to win this tournament.”

Mikey Stukenholtz put the finishing touches on with his goal in the 70th minute on a shot that went off an East defender and in, the third of the tournament for the sophomore.

Spartans coach Colin Smitsek thought his team played well, but ran into a team playing at a high level.

“The boys obviously gave it their all, but I just think we were a little bit naive in certain areas, if I’m being honest, in certain areas of the field,” Smitsek said. “They’ve just got a lot going for them. Their attacking potency is solid, and defensively they were spot on today.

“It comes from a lot of different areas. They’re very good at isolating 1-on-1’s, honestly. And they draw you in and they’ll just slide a little pass. It’s not rocket science, it’s just difficult to defend against.”

After losing in each of the previous two state semifinals, Gretna moves into the finals for the first time since a Class B runner-up finish in 2014. The Dragons are looking for their first championship since 2011.

Lincoln East (13-4)....0  2—2

Gretna (19-2)............2  2—4

GOALS: LE, Aidan Nachi 2; G, Maguire Perkins, Tommy Sowinski, Brett Perkins, Mikey Stukenholtz.

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Nick covers high school soccer, wrestling and other sports for The World-Herald.

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