by Tom Utescher
Rebounding from back-to-back losses in the second week of September (their only setbacks of the season), the boys’ soccer ensemble at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy posted two wins and a tie last week to arrive at the autumnal equinox with an overall record of 6-2-1.
At their own Landreth Stadium Field last Tuesday, the Blue Devils gave fifth-year skipper Joe DiSalvo his first coaching victory over New Jersey’s Pennington School, 4-2. Facing another private school squad from the Garden State, this time on the road, SCH took down the Hun School by a 2-0 count on Thursday.
Trailing at halftime at Archbishop Ryan on Saturday evening, the visiting Devils leveled the score in the second half and came away with a 1-1 tie.
Two other Catholic League teams, St. Joe’s Prep and Archbishop Wood, had handed the Blue Devils back-to-back losses the previous week. In the Prep game, the winning goal was scored by the Hawklets with under ten minutes to go, and in both contests there had been openings for SCH to seize the lead in the second half.
“I think the main problem was that we didn’t finish our opportunities,” Coach DiSalvo said. “We also just need to be more consistent, so we cut down on little letdowns where we give up a soft goal. We definitely did better in those areas this week, though.”
In Tuesday’s home game, an early marker by Pennington was matched on a breakaway strike by SCH senior Alec Greenhalgh. The visiting Red Raiders regained the lead, but two goals would be their limit thanks to a Blue Devil defense anchored by sophomore goalie Sam McDowell.
Springside Chestnut Hill recovered quickly to take a 3-2 advantage into the halftime break. First, the Devils drew even with a goal by junior Jose Contreras. The next opportunity came on a long-throw in by senior Cole Brown. Pennington couldn’t get a handle on the ball, and Greenhalgh closed in to send a shot into the net for the second time that afternoon.
The lone goal of the second half came on a long outside shot by birthday boy Phil Kelly, who is one of the Blue Devils’ senior tri-captains along with Greenhalgh and Anthony Liddy. It was the Blue Devils’ highest output on offense this season.
“We probably have six or seven guys who have scored,” DiSalvo said, “and we have four guys who have at least three goals, so I like that balance.”
On the road two days later, McDowell earned his third shutout of the season by blanking Hun School on its own field. Wearing black and red, the Hun School athletes simply bear the nickname “Raiders.” The visitors from Chestnut Hill struck once in each half, as Kelly collected his second goal of the week and senior classmate Evan Wilson netted the other.
In the first half of Saturday’s rainy evening outing at Archbishop Ryan, the home team (nicknamed – guess what? – the Red Raiders) was up 1-0 at the half thanks to a penalty kick.
“We probably should have been leading already when they got the PK,” DiSalvo suggested. “One thing we’re trying to get through to the team is that we’re responsible for the situations we’re putting ourselves in. If we can score on more of the opportunities we’re creating, then we can survive a PK call or something like that.”
It turned out that the officials weren’t done with SCH yet, slapping Greenhalgh with a red card later on so that the Devils had to try and catch Ryan while playing a man down.
Picking up the slack for his banished brother, sophomore Blake Greenhalgh scored the tying goal for the visitors.
DiSalvo related, “There were about eight minutes left when we scored. Phil Kelly played probably a 30 or 40-yard ball in the box, and Blake scored a brilliant header.”
Kelly is actually a member of the starting defensive unit, along with Brown, fellow senior Will McCool, and junior Peter Davis. Junior Hunter Ferry frequently comes in off the bench to lend a hand on defense, or wherever he’s needed. He has essentially developed into the Devils’ 12th man, akin to a sixth man in basketball.
“Hunter has given us great minutes off the bench,” DiSalvo said. “If someone gets a yellow card or gets hurt, he’s a go-to guy.”
His contributions will become even more important when SCH starts in on its Inter-Ac schedule since Brown, a transfer from Penn Charter, will not be eligible to play in league games.
As far as the team’s skipper is concerned, everything that’s been happening in September has been a build-up to those Inter-Ac encounters.
“It’s all a part of getting experience to take into the league,” he observed. “You can go into the league knowing what it’s like to lose a game you thought you probably should have won, you have the experience of going down a goal or two to a good team and then fighting back. When I look back at our Inter-Ac seasons, about 75 percent of the games have been one-goal games, so every bit of preparation counts.”