by Tom Utescher
Playing in Maguire Stadium on Homecoming Day, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy just about matched the visiting Shipley School soccer squad in terms of time of possession and scoring chances.
However, it was the guest Gators who proved to have the finishing touch, breaking a 1-1 tie shortly before halftime and then scoring again in the second period to come away with a 3-1 victory that raised their overall record to 8-4-1.
SCH was able to match the game’s opening goal by Shipley with a marker from senior Blake Greenhalgh. Later on, though, a halftime headache caused by contact in the first period forced Greenhalgh to sit out the second period. With the loss, the Hillers’ overall record settled to 3-5-2. A few days before, the locals had lost, 2-0, to defending Inter-Ac champion Haverford School, coming away with a 0-1-1 mark that also included a 3-3 tie with Germantown Academy in the league opener on October 8.
Saturday’s contest marked the third time the Shipley team had crossed the Schuylkill last week. That meant playing closer to home for sophomore Ronan Higgins, a Lafayette Hill native who attended St. Philip Neri School. His oldest brother, Tom, had played soccer for Springside Chestnut Hill, graduating in 2012.
On their earlier jaunts last week, the Gators had secured a 1-0 win at Germantown Friends and then had beaten Abington Friends, 3-1, to remain atop the Friends Schools League standings with a 4-0 record.
The Bryn Mawr bunch had the home team on their heels early in Saturday’s match. The Gators earned two corner kicks and then sent a hard shot over the crossbar about nine minutes in. Off a restart out on the left wing, the visitors lofted the ball into the box. There was no shot directly off of the long serve, but SCH couldn’t clear the ball across the 18, and after a few touches by various players, Austin Wylie got a pass over to Ashkan Ashrafioun, who finished for Shipley with a little over 13 minutes elapsed.
Springside Chestnut Hill began to make more offensive sorties, but seldom crossed the visitors’ 18 yard-line. After a time, the Hillers’ forwards became more dangerous, and on an advance into the box with around 15 minutes left in the half, Jack Lamb played the ball from the middle of the zone over toward the right post. Greenhalgh was there to boot the ball home, leveling the score at 1-1.
SCH pressed for the lead, but Shipley goalie Jake Tractenberg saved two promising shots by senior Henry Kelly and also got in front of an attempt by Greenhalgh. The Gators eventually went back on the offensive and quickly scored to take the lead for good. With a little over two minutes left in the first period, Josh Liss delivered the ball to Wylie in the left side of the box, and he angled a shot inside the near post.
The Hillers had a chance to tie again right at the end, but a ball slipped across the 18 by sophomore Tague Harmaty got a little too far ahead of a charging Greenhalgh and the goalie grabbed the ball.
The interaction between the teams would grow more contentious and chippy during the second half and there were a number of contact injuries, but the officials disciplined the players infrequently.
SCH attacked at the start of the second round and earned a corner kick on the right, but the ball was hit on the ground and the play went nowhere. Shipley would score on its first trip to the offensive end, as a foul by the Hillers just inside the left boundary of the box resulted in a penalty kick. Michael Burns went left to cash in for the Gators, and the game’s final score was on the board with almost 34 minutes left to play.
Nine days earlier, Springside Chestnut Hill had come back from a 3-1 shortfall to tie GA at the end of the second half. The Hillers could not recreate that comeback here, however. Neither team was able to capitalize on its scoring chances throughout the rest of the second period, and in fact SCH senior goalie Sam McDowell had to make several diving stops to prevent a fourth goal for the Gators.
McDowell, who finished with nine saves, recently decided that he will continue his career at Maine’s Bowdoin College.