by Tom Utescher
A goal by junior Jose Contreras helped visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy hand Haverford School its first Inter-Ac league defeat of the season back on October 25, allowing the Blue Devils to pull even in the loss column with the league-leading Fords.
Unfortunately for fans who came out to watch SCH at home last Tuesday, the Devils’ chances of claiming a share of the Inter-Ac title diminished considerably when visiting Germantown Academy did all the scoring for the afternoon in the second half to emerge from the match with a 3-0 victory.
The home team created a number of scoring opportunities for itself in the first half, but they remained just that – opportunities.
“We played a very good first half of soccer; we did everything out there except finish,” said SCH head coach Joe DiSalvo. “We told the guys at halftime that it felt like one of those games where if you don’t score and you leave the other team in it, you could find yourself in a bad situation. GA outplayed us in the second half.”
Springside Chestnut Hill (15-5-1 overall) slipped to 5-2 in the league, while Haverford, with a win against Penn Charter the same afternoon, built its record to 7-1. SCH and Episcopal Academy had postponed their initial meeting this season, so those two teams each had one more Inter-Ac match remaining than the other four league members.
GA, which received its goals from seniors Scott Solakian and Josh Komitsky and junior Matt Rueter (in that order) improved to 5-2-1 last Tuesday, avenging an earlier 1-0 loss to the Blue Devils.
“We executed very well today; I was happy with everything about the game,” remarked GA coach Chris Fehrle. “Our guys knew we needed to get a win today to keep ourselves alive in the league race.”
The Patriots’ skipper also knew that it wouldn’t be easy.
“They’ve very big and athletic and they have great team speed,” he pointed out. “We didn’t want to force the ball into the back, which we probably did a little too much in the first half. We told the kids at halftime the we needed to attack from the outside a little more and use different looks and angles, and they did a great job of that in the second period.”
The Patriots earned the game’s first corner kick, and a little after that they flicked a shot over the SCH goal. The Blue Devils got nice passes into the box from seniors Alec Greenhalgh and Will McCool, but had nobody in the right spot for the coup de grace. On another SCH rush, sophomore Harrison Kapp sent a soft shot just outside the left goalpost.
GA came upfield to generate two scoring chances, but both shots the Pats launched were way off the mark. Back at the other end, SCH senior Phil Kelly volleyed the ball from that far left side of the box over toward the far post, and Greenhalgh was just a step too late arriving on the scene. Midway through the period, it looked like SCH might have a potential breakaway led by Kapp, but Patriots senior Jacob Ernst ran down the break and prevented a clean shot by the hosts.
Ernst and fellow defender James Diver, a junior, showed a lot of hustle in the back all day.
As Coach Fehrle observed, “Diver is the smallest guy in the back, but he has good speed and good instincts, and he’s done a great job for us all year. Jacob Ernst played a very good game. He saved us by clearing a ball off the line right after we scored our first goal.”
SCH was awarded a direct kick with about nine minutes left in the first half, when GA junior goalie Cameron David grabbed a ball far out in the box and had his momentum carry him beyond the 18. Blue Devils senior Anthony Liddy, who struck the ball ferociously many times during the afternoon, sent the resulting direct kick clanging off the left post.
SCH sophomore keeper Sam McDowell turned aside a hard, low shot by the visitors, and it was Springside Chestnut Hill that had the last, best scoring chances of the half. A long shot up the middle by sophomore Padgett Gustavson was knocked down by GA’s David, and when Liddy sent a dangerous aerial cross near the front of the goal, Diver intercepted the serve and cleared the ball for the Patriots.
During the intermission, the Devils’ DiSalvo told his charges that the first 10 minutes of the second half could well decide the game. He was proven correct, but not in the way he’d hoped, as Salakian put the Patriots on the board early in round two. The SCH skipper now felt his team needed not just one goal, but two.
“I think Haverford’s going to win out in the league, so I knew a tie wasn’t going to help us in terms of the championship,” he explained. “We pushed more people up the field and we just had to take that risk of them maybe scoring again.”
GA actually notched its first insurance goal on a set piece, originating from just outside the middle of the 18-yard-line. Komitsky drilled the ball into the cage to make it 2-0 with 18 minutes remaining.
A minute later, the Patriots changed goalies for the second time in the game. To begin the second half, sophomore Steven Combs had come in to replace the starter, David. However, when Combs was screened from an incoming ball and it ended up smashing into his face, he left the field with a very bloody nose and David returned to action.
SCH had some offensive opportunities on restarts as the final 15 minutes ticked away. GA cleared the ball out on a Blue Devil corner kick from the left, then on a long free kick from the right wing, the resulting SCH shot was popped up over the goal. On a direct kick closer to the center of the field, a shot by Liddy tracked about a foot-and-a-half above the crossbar.
GA had also been spending some time in the home team’s half to take pressure off of its own goal. Entering the box on the right side on a give-and-go sequence, the Patriots’ Rueter put the final point on the board with three minutes and 40 seconds remaining.
“It’s sad for the seniors to come away with this outcome after we played so well on Friday [Haverford] and Saturday [a 1-0 win over Shipley] and for the first half today,” the Devils’ DiSalvo said. “You can’t really say that we came out flat today, or we wouldn’t have played that well in the first half. There really isn’t an excuse; you have to realize that in the Inter-Ac you’ve got to make your own luck, and a lot of that is finishing your opportunities.
“We got behind twice in our Malvern game here and we got behind against Penn Charter,” he went on. “We told the kids one day you’re going to get behind and not be able to come back. So in a way, we’ve been flirting with this kind of result.”