by Tom Utescher
When Springside Chestnut Hill Academy travelled to Penn Charter for last Friday’s boys’ soccer match, both the Blue Devils and the host Quakers were not only seeking their first Inter-Ac victory, but also their first goal in league play.
On Tuesday, Charter had opened up with a 5-0 setback against the league’s pre-season favorite, Haverford School, while SCH visited Germantown Academy and gave up a pair of goals to senior Dan Hoy in a 2-0 defeat.
Three days later, SCH grabbed a 1-0 halftime lead at Charter, then controlled the ball for long stretches in the second period before adding a second goal with six minutes left to play. The Quakers (3-4-1 overall) broke the shutout with two-and-a-half minutes remaining, but the Devils (7-3) took away a 2-1 win.
Visiting senior Danny Hull scored the first goal, and in the second half he took a shot that set up a rebound opportunity for classmate Alex DeBerardinis, who stuffed in the game-winner. PC junior Zach Weinberg got the hosts on the scoreboard in the waning moments.
Thinking back to Tuesday’s league debut, SCH coach Joe DiSalvo recalled, “We came out flat at GA, and when they scored in the first five minutes it set the tone for the game. Today, we came to play.”
The Devils also made a change in their starting formation, going from three to four defenders.
“That was so we could control the game a little more and get some more ball possession,” DiSalvo said. “We’re still a pretty young team and it helps us when we can have some control early in a game.”
Penn Charter’s first opponent last week, Haverford, was ranked in the top 20 in ESPN’s national poll.
“They’re very good, but I don’t think they’re five goals better than us,” said Quakers coach Bob DiBenedetto.
He was disappointed that his club did not rebound from that setback to give a high-quality performance on Friday.
“They wanted it more today,” he said of visiting SCH. “They were tougher, they ran through every ball, they won head balls. In soccer you’ve got to win loose balls. Here we’re down 1-0 and we’re letting balls bounce a couple times in our box – that can’t happen.”
DiBenedetto’s senior goalie, Ben Krieger (eight saves) made the first save of the afternoon, then his teammates went on the attack for several minutes. The visitors countered, launching a corner kick that sailed well past the goal, and serving another ball into the box only to have it headed away by Charter junior Sam Agre.
The Devils got on the board with 24:54 remaining in the first half. Krieger was in the middle of the goal and tried to get over to the right side of the cage on Hull’s shot from the middle of the box, but the SCH senior placed the ball just inside the post. Later in the period, PC’s Agre got his head on the ball for a promising shot, but the ball went wide to the right of the CHA cage and senior keeper Sam Feirson (seven saves).
A scuffle broke out on the field in the closing minutes of the period, which ended with CHA still leading 1-0. Both teams contributed to the physical nature of the game, but the Quakers seemed distracted by the contact while SCH appeared to focus on the game itself a bit better.
“I thought we came out a little stronger in the second half, but not good enough to win,” said PC’s DiBenedetto.
As the second half got underway Charter earned a corner kick and generated other opportunities up front. A particularly dangerous serve towards the cage was punched away from the goalmouth by the Devils’ Feirson.
After the initial push by Penn Charter, Springside Chestnut Hill regrouped and began to protect its slim lead simply by keeping the ball out of its defensive half. Hull hit a hard shot into the netting just outside of the left goalpost, and fellow senior Dan Trulear turned with the ball in the middle of the box to get off a close-range shot, but junior defender Ted Foley was there for the Quakers, blocking the ball.
The match was now well into its final 10 minutes. Threatening again, Hull fired from a dozen yards outside the right post. Krieger made a great diving stop, but the loose ball bounced over towards the left side of the goal, where SCH’s DeBerardinis had closed in to deliver the coup de grace.
“In practice, we’ve been working on following up our shots and getting after the rebounds,” revealed the Devils’ DiSalvo.
PC’s DiBenedetto felt that rival forward Hull was the X-factor in the match.
“They have that finisher, and nobody stepped forward to finish goals for us,” he said.
“Hullsey’s a beast,” agreed DiSalvo. “He has a way of always being in the right spot, and when he gets the ball there he almost always scores.”
The Quakers made it exciting at the end, turning it into a one-goal affair with less than three minutes to go, when a shot by Weinstein from the left side of the penalty area deflected off a Devil defender and into the cage.
Charter’s best chance to tie came on a restart near the right side of the box, but the Quakers played the ball short and the play fizzled out.
Afterward, SCH mentor DiSalvo was happy not only with the win, but with the overall play of his club.
“Tommy Higgins [junior], Anthony Liddy [sophomore], and Alex DeBerardinis had great games,” he remarked. “They helped us control the center of the park, where Penn Charter has two of their best players, Sullivan and [sophomore Sean] O’Brien.
“I thought early in the game Dan Trulear used his speed to wreak havoc down the flank,” the coach continued. “Also, Kenny McArthur [sophomore] has been having a great season in the back. He covers up a lot of our mistakes and helps keep us organized on defense.”