In Saturday’s chilly conditions, both players are wearing gloves as SCH junior Phil Burckhardt (left) races toward the ball with Malvern’s Logan Cattie, who later scored the Friars’ lone goal on a penalty kick. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

On the final day of competition for boys’ soccer teams in the Inter-Ac league, there were still a number of possibilities for the outcome of the quest for the 2017 championship.

As the teams geared up for last Saturday’s games, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Episcopal Academy were tied for first place with records of 6-2-1. Malvern Prep was just behind them with a 5-3-1 mark; for both the Friars and the SCH Blue Devils, the lone tie had come in encounters with Penn Charter.

Episcopal, which had tied Haverford School, would face the ‘Fords again on Saturday afternoon, while SCH played out at Malvern. Either Springside Chestnut Hill or EA could win the league title outright if one team won and the other lost. If both won, they would share the crown, but if both lost, it would mean that Malvern had beaten the Blue Devils and had climbed into a three-way tie for the championship, with each team finishing 6-3-1.

Episcopal tied Haverford for a second time in Saturday’s rematch, which had begun half-an-hour before the start of the SCH-Malvern game. Right after the contest at EA ended, the Churchmen might well have thought that this draw would be enough to give them sole claim to the league title. If they’d been receiving electronic updates from Malvern, just four miles away, they knew that the host Friars had scored on a penalty kick and were still leading SCH 1-0 very late in the game.

As it turned out, EA would have to settle for second place. Blue Devils senior Luke Vogelman scored with four minutes remaining in regulation play, and with 10 seconds to go in the 10 minutes of overtime, junior Jack Myers headed in the game-winner for a 2-1 triumph by Springside Chestnut Hill.

With each win counting for three points in the Inter-Ac ranking system and each tie for one, SCH (7-2-1) had come away with 22 points while Episcopal (6-2-2) finished with 20 and Malvern (5-4-1) with 16. Haverford (4-4-2) was fourth with 14, and despite a 3-2 loss to rival GA in the season finale, 2016 champion Penn Charter (3-5-2) stayed in fifth place with 11 points while the Patriots (2-8) wound up with six.

Due to violations resulting in an ejection, SCH finished Saturday’s game with 10 players on the field. During the regular season, they’d topped Episcopal, 2-1, while playing a man down, and they’d prevailed in an overtime situation in one of their games with PC.

“It speaks to the resilience of our boys, and I couldn’t be prouder of them,” remarked second-year head coach Brian Zalasky.

One of the team’s top scorers, junior Luke Greenberg, had been out of action with a broken foot for two weeks, and for Saturday’s game the team was also missing one of its most experienced players farther back on the field, senior Tague Harmaty.

“We know that any of the guys on the bench can go in the game and the energy level is not going to drop, and that they’re going to play to the best of their ability,” Zalasky said. “These guys fight for each other.”

As in many other sports, the Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament had gotten underway in boys’ soccer before the Inter-Ac teams finished their league seasons. SCH, seeded second behind defending champion Hill School, received a bye in the opening round, while seventh-seeded Penn Charter and number nine Germantown Academy went into PAIS action right away on November 3.

GA fell to eighth-ranked Kiski Prep, 5-1, while the Quakers had senior Andrew Morris score the lone goal of the game as they advanced past the 10th seed, Shipley School.

Springside Chestnut Hill’s soccer players line up in one of the goals at Malvern to celebrate their 2017 Inter-Ac League championship. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

In the quarterfinal round on Tuesday of last week there was another 1-0 outcome for Penn Charter, but this time the goal belonged to Springside Chestnut Hill junior Phil Burckhardt as the host Blue Devils moved on to the Indy Schools semifinals.

On Thursday, there was sort of an unofficial King Edward I Day on the SCH soccer fields. For his aggressive campaigns against his northern neighbors, the English king was dubbed “Hammer of the Scots,” and in both boys’ and girls’ semifinal contests, the Blue Devils knocked off visiting teams with Caledonian coaches.

After splitting their Inter-Ac series with Episcopal, the SCH boys were now encountering the Churchmen a third time. An early SCH marker scored by sophomore Dane Harmaty and assisted by junior Peter Kapp was matched by EA for a 1-1 halftime tally.

Vogelman stuck early in the second half and Burckhardt, who assisted that goal, also set up an insurance goal by Kapp with four minutes remaining. Junior goalie Owen Elliott made five saves in the 3-1 win. The tourney now was put on hold until the following week; SCH would play one last Inter-Ac League match on Saturday.

A little after midday, the visiting Blue Devils warmed up to a Zalasky music playlist that included the superb Jimi Hendrix cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower. One of the closing lines, “Outside in the cold distance,” seemed particularly appropriate, since the temperature never rose out of the 30’s far out on the plains of Malvern.

The Friars made the first cross into the box as the game began, and after senior Mike Buck cleared the ball out for SCH, the Blue Devils sent the initial corner kick of the day all the way across the front of the goal.

On several runs across the 18-yard line by Dane Harmaty, the sophomore went down after contact with Malvern defenders, but SCH demands for foul calls and even a penalty kick were not met. At times, the officials seemed to have a little trouble processing the action on the field.

Off of a cross from near the endline by Kapp around the middle of the period, sophomore Scott Bandura volleyed the ball just outside of the right post. Called to duty when Greenberg was injured in late October, Bandura was praised by Zalasky for his contributions. Another young player, Connor Koschineg, had earned a starting role at the beginning of the season.

Malvern goalie Jake Hodloski, a senior headed for the University of Scranton, saved a header by Harmaty at the right post, then dove down to block a shot by Bandura. With under 10 minutes left in the first half Friars junior Matt Lamond left the field with an injury, and on a Malvern corner kick SCH’s Buck headed the ball out of the box.

Harmaty reached out a foot to jab a short shot just wide of Malvern’s right post, and on two late serves inside by the Blue Devils, a Malvern back headed away the first ball and Hodloski caught the second.

SCH sophomore Dane Harmaty (left, facing camera) and Malvern’s Connor Dillon step toward a loose ball. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

It looked as though the 0-0 halftime tie would be broken almost immediately as the second half began. Malvern attacked from the outset and was awarded a penalty kick, but the shot went wide to the left as SCH cheered.

Just eight minutes into the period, the Friars had a second PK presented to them. This time, a yellow-card foul was called on Elliott (four saves), and he was forced to stay on the sideline momentarily while Myers stepped in as goalie. The shot once again was aimed to the left, and this time junior Logan Cattie scored to put the hosts up, 1-0.

Springside Chestnut Hill certainly plays with passion, but at times the players have let their emotions get away from them, and occasionally costly fouls have been the result.

“Today it was a danger at times,” Zalasky admitted. “They needed to be reminded not to let all the other stuff that really doesn’t have to do with the game become a distraction that takes away from their performance. It’s something we’ve talked about during the season; I gave them laminated cards with the dictionary definition of ‘composure.’ ”

After Malvern scored, the Blue Devils still had more than half an hour to come up with an equalizer, but the minutes ticked away with the Friars’ edge still intact. Burckhardt had several shots stopped by Malvern’s Hodloski, and at the other end Elliott made a good stop on a Malvern free kick that zoomed past the Devils’ defensive wall.

There were more SCH chances, but the ball wouldn’t go in. Burckhardt attacked again, launching a solid shot from the left flank that strayed beyond the far post. Soon, the clock clicked under five minutes.

The visitors stayed on the offensive, and from low on the right side Kapp slipped a pass across the goalmouth. Vogelman arrived just in time to punch the ball into the net, tying the score with 3:56 remaining in the second half. In the final minute Malvern threatened on a long free kick, but Myers headed the ball out of danger for SCH and the contest went into overtime.

In the Inter-Ac, this consists of two five-minute periods that are played in full, with the game ending in a tie in neither team scores. Midway through the first stint an SCH corner kick came to naught, and when Bandura hit a nice serve into the box later on, the players inside were unable to control the ball for a shot.

An SCH player who normally stays relatively free of fouls had received two yellow cards, so the Blue Devils were playing 10-on-11. By this time, it had been learned that Episcopal and Haverford had tied, so if the deadlock here remained unbroken in the second OT, Springside Chestnut Hill would share the 2017 title with EA.

Less than two minutes remained when Malvern took a corner kick from the right. SCH cleared the ball out of the box, the Friars chipped it back in, and Burckhardt headed it away.

With less than half-a-minute left SCH was making one last assault. Out along the right endline, Kapp crossed the ball in the air. On the other side, almost in line with the left post, Myers went up and headed the ball into the net. Exactly 10 seconds were on the clock, and very soon SCH was celebrating its first Inter-Ac championship since 2007.