by Tom Utescher
Three-quarters of the way through last Friday’s Inter-Ac soccer match at Germantown Academy, the host Patriots appeared headed towards their fifth tie in the 10-game league schedule.
In the Inter-Ac team standings, settling for a stalemate nets you only one rankings point, as opposed to three for a win, but GA would’ve preferred that outcome instead of what actually happened.
With 15:36 remaining, visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy got on the board as senior Kevin Voye scored his third goal in two games, heading in a long throw-in from classmate Tim Ogle. With the Patriots all pushed up the field on offense in the final seconds, Blue Devils junior Anthony Liddy cashed in on a breakaway to round out a 2-0 victory for the visitors.
It was Liddy’s fourth game back coming off of a mid-season injury, and Springside Chestnut Hill coach Joe DiSalvo felt it was no coincidence that this was also the team’s fourth victory in a row.
“He just gives us an added confidence, and obviously we play better soccer when he’s on the field,” the SCH skipper said. “My goalkeeper, [freshman] Sam McDowell had a great game today with some phenomenal saves.
“I was just kidding Kevin Voye the other week about giving us some goals,” DiSalvo added, “and now he has three in the last two games. He stepped up at just the right time, because right now [junior] Evan Wilson is out, and he’s the guy who scored both our goals in the first game with GA.”
This fall, the central portion of the schedule provided tough going for Springside Chestnut Hill, which went 1-6-1 in an eight-game stretch leading up to its recent win streak. With the late-season turnaround that stretched through Friday’s bout at GA, the Devils got back within a game of the .500 mark with a 9-10-2 overall record, while improving to 3-5-1 in the Inter-Ac with just a match against Malvern Prep left to play.
The one tie in the SCH league ledger was a 2-2 deadlock with GA back in the first week of October. Among the other tie games for GA was a 1-1 encounter with Haverford School. It remains the only non-win in the Inter-Ac for the Fords, who have clinched the 2012 league title.
Last season, Germantown had a striker who had a knack for breaking deadlocks and for scoring in general, but Pat Hoy has now moved on to Princeton University, where he’s on the baseball team.
“The most difficult thing to do in soccer is to actually score goals off your chances, and it’s been an issue for us all year,” observed Patriots coach Chris Fehrle. “We lost Hoy, who you could count on to finish consistently, and this season it’s been scoring by committee, seeing who can put one in on a given day. We’ve had a lot of games where we’ve played well enough to win, but we haven’t had that one guy to put the ball away.”
In Inter-Ac contests last Tuesday, a pair of goals by senior Adam Villari took the Patriots past Episcopal Academy, 2-1, while SCH topped host Penn Charter, 4-2. The Blue Devils’ Voye and Quakers junior Bradford Jones each scored twice, and the other two SCH markers came from Ogle (whose ball went in off of a PC player) and sophomore José Contreras.
For much of Friday’s match there was a scoring drought for both SCH and GA, but that didn’t surprise the coaches.
“They defend very well,” DiSalvo stated after the game. “Chris has them well-prepared and they don’t make a lot of mistakes. Without our long throw-in, we’d probably still be playing right now.”
Fehrle pointed out, “We just have a history of close games between our two teams. Over the last three or four years we’ve gone to overtime with them more times than not. Joe and Bobby [Buoncristiano, the SCH assistant coach] do a good job getting their kids ready to go in these league games, which are never easy.”
The sideline throw-in artists for each team were showcased from the get-go. SCH’s Ogle heaves his in a conventional manner, while fellow senior Jared Whitman of GA performs the more elaborate somersault routine. Both players can fling the ball into the goalmouth if they’re starting down near the corners of the field.
SCH’s McDowell and GA junior keeper Jacob Jordan each plucked a projectile from the other team out of the air during the opening minutes, and the long-toss lads got plenty of other opportunities later on. A run by Blue Devils junior Phil Kelly ended with a shot that tracked a little high and wide to the right, and a GA ball passed into the box at the other end was cleared out by the visitors’ Will McCool.
Later on, Whitman launched two more throws towards players waiting in front of the Devils’ den, but McDowell went up and grabbed the ball both times and before long the half ended at 0-0.
When play resumed, McDowell had to make a difficult save at the left post on a well-struck shot by senior Tim Rueter, and the Patriots kept the pressure on for some time. After some more close shaves, including a shot hit hard just over the crossbar by GA junior Scott Solakian, SCH’s DiSalvo loudly warned his team “We can’t wait until they score to pick it up!”
The Devils generated some more offensive activity after that, and eventually scored as the clock wound down towards the 15-minute mark. Ogle’s throw from the left sideline traveled across the cage to the far post, where a handful of players were waiting. It almost looked like the ball went in directly off of the upright (particularly to GA observers), but it was actually headed in by Voye, making it a legal goal that proved to be the game-winner.
The Pats came very close to netting a tying goal several times. On one GA foray across the SCH 18, McDowell saved both a close-range shot by junior Josh Komitsky and a quick follow-up attempt by Whitman. Later, Solakian had a shot lined up in the middle of the box as McDowell approached, but the GA junior fired the ball too close to the Devils’ keeper, who flicked out a hand and deflected it out of harm’s way.
While Germantown had everyone up on offense in the final moments, SCH’s Liddy broke loose on a counter and scored with 36 seconds left to play.
“I’m proud of my team, because it’s been a tough year,” DiSalvo said. “We struggled in the middle of the season but I always felt that our team was better than that, and now it’s nice to get some results to kind of confirm that.”