by Tom Utescher
If last Friday’s Inter-Ac League soccer finale in Chestnut Hill had ended when the winning goal was scored, it would’ve lasted less than 10 seconds. Although the timing was unorthodox, you couldn’t call Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s decisive strike a fluke, because it was well conceived and well executed by Blue Devils junior Blake Greenhalgh.
As he received the short opening tap from senior Christian Williams, Greenhalgh noticed that Malvern Prep goalie Brendan Welsh had wandered out into the box, away from the mouth of the goal. The SCH 11th-grader launched a long, wind-aided shot, and the ball bounced into the Friars’ cage as Welsh tried to scramble back into position. Welsh’s teammates hadn’t fully appreciated what was happening, either; nobody appeared to give him a heads-up.
Williams knocked in an insurance goal for the home team less than four minutes later, and Malvern was never truly in contention in this contest, the last league match of 2014 for both teams. In the final minute, fellow senior José Contreras completed the scoring in SCH’s 3-0 victory.
Before any of the league teams played their final games last Friday and Saturday, Haverford had already clinched the 2014 Inter-Ac title. With the league’s point system doling out three standings points for each win and one for a tie, the Fords had accumulated 22 points thanks to their 7-1-1 record through nine games.
SCH, which had been responsible for the lone mark in Haverford’s loss column, went into Friday’s Malvern game with a 5-3-1 record that translated to 16 points. The Friars could’ve come close to tying the Devils for second place, arriving with 12 points (3-3-3), but even with a victory they would’ve finished one short of the local booters.
Springside Chestnut Hill became the league runner-up for the second year in a row (6-3-1/19 points), and the Blue Devils’ final victory avenged a 2-1 loss at Malvern in mid-October.
“You don’t feel great about finishing second, but at least this game gave us the chance to do what we did last year, which was to beat every team at least once,” pointed out sixth-year head coach Joe DiSalvo. “We didn’t play well in our early games against GA [Germantown Academy] and Malvern, so we got to make up for that. Coming off last year, graduating nine strong seniors with a lot of goals and assists, it was good to be able to have a similar outcome this season.”
In their first game last week, the Blue Devils wound up in a 0-0 tie with Penn Charter on Tuesday, and the other two Inter-Ac contests that afternoon (GA-Episcopal, Haverford-Malvern) also ended in scoreless stalemates.
With another tie on Saturday, a 2-2 draw with Germantown Academy, Charter went from a 2013 campaign without a single league victory to a 3-4-3 record that netted them 12 points and allowed this year’s collection of Quakers to finish in a tie for third place with Malvern. The league doesn’t employ a head-to-head tiebreaker in its final rankings, but PC players will be quick to point out that in their home/away series with Malvern they came away with a win and a tie.
Below these two teams, Episcopal finished fifth in the 2014 standings, earning 10 points with its 2-4-4 record. GA topped Springside Chestnut Hill, 2-1, when the teams first squared off in their league opener on October 7. Things went downhill for the Patriots after that, though, and they landed in sixth place at the end, with six points stemming from a 1-6-3 record.
In between its last two league games, Springside Chestnut Hill played a first-round game in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament on Thursday afternoon. Williams, senior Peter Davis, and sophomore Jack Lamb scored to carry fifth-seeded SCH past number 12 Germantown Friends, 3-1. The Tigers received their goal from senior Satya Butler.
Ranked sixth for the PAIS tourney, Penn Charter also won its opener last week, defeating number 11 George School, 2-0, thanks to goals by senior Luke Zieger and sophomore Max Jacobs.
After stunning Malvern with Greenhalgh’s opening goal last Friday, Springside Chestnut Hill remained the aggressor. With 36:09 still left to play in the first period, Williams was allowed to settle the ball about a dozen yards above the 18 in the center of the field, and he blasted a straight-on shot into the net for a 2-0 Blue Devils advantage.
Instead of regular starting goalie Sam McDowell, a junior, SCH played senior Jay Regam in the first half, and he stopped several strong shots by Malvern. Displaying some speed and skill, the Friars threatened a number of times during the contest, but couldn’t prevent the shutout that was finished out by McDowell in the second period.
Near the end, the Blue Devils’ Davis slipped a ball up the middle to Contreras, who drew the goalie and then shot inside the right post with 44 seconds remaining.
Given the graduation losses from the 2013 team, the results produced this fall reflect the growing strength of the SCH program overall.
“It took awhile for me to figure how to win when I got here,” admitted DiSalvo, an alumnus of the school who went on to play for the University of North Carolina. “Now, this year’s senior class is going to leave with four winning records, so that sort of establishes a positive pattern for the program.”