With a dozen minutes remaining in last Thursday's Inter-Ac League soccer match, visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy took a 3-1 lead over the host Patriots of Germantown Academy. A GA goal by …
With a dozen minutes remaining in last Thursday's Inter-Ac League soccer match, visiting Springside Chestnut Hill Academy took a 3-1 lead over the host Patriots of Germantown Academy. A GA goal by senior Chris Hackley with four-and-a-half minutes to go dialed up the drama in the final phase of the contest, but the SCH Hillers hung on to take away a 3-2 win.
Each team had won its season opener the previous week, Germantown defeating visiting Episcopal Academy, 3-1, and Springside Chestnut Hill collecting a 1-0 road win against Haverford School. Last Thursday's bout set SCH up with a 2-0 record, while GA leveled off at 1-1.
With league member Malvern Prep deciding to engage in its own independent sports schedule this fall, the remaining Inter-Ac squads are only playing eight games apiece, so each outcome carries even more weight than usual.
All of the goals last Thursday at GA came in the second half. Each team had scoring chances in the first period, with the visitors controlling somewhat more of the play than the Patriots.
"I don't think we played our best," stated fifth-year SCH head coach Brian Zalasky. "In the second half we played really good soccer for 15 or 20 minutes. I thought GA played well, and deserved their goals."
Kurt Wetzel, in his third season at the helm of the Patriots' program, reflected, "It was a game that could've ended 1-1 or 3-3. We're a good team, and a deep team this year, but we made a mistake in the back that led to their third goal."
For both teams, the lead-up to the shortened season was unusual, like so much in 2020. GA had a few weeks of soccer practice at the beginning of the school year, back when the Inter-Ac had no plans to conduct a fall sports season. A little later, a number of multi-sport athletes switched over for some workouts with their winter or spring teams.
"During that stretch, our team was still able to practice two days a week, but we didn't have full numbers," related GA's Wetzel. "When the league decided to go ahead with fall sports competition, things got a little more back to normal."
Springside Chestnut Hill's Zalasky said that his squad had some informal practices back in August.
"That was all non-contact, no-equipment," he said, "so it was more like fitness work, and also trying to build a sense of camaraderie.
"Once we got back to school," he continued, "we just were in classes for a while, then we started back to sports around the end of September."
The Hillers had the better of the play in the first 20 minutes last Thursday, although the Patriots made a few runs. Approaching the midpoint of the half, SCH hit a corner kick from the left a little too hard, and the ball went out of the far side of the box. The Hillers sent it back across toward the left post, and although the ball traveled laterally past senior goalie Henry Moyer, junior Brett Rabbiner cleared the ball off the goal line near the post.
A little later SCH senior Connor Koschineg missed on a header, and with the clock under 14 minutes, sophomore Danny Heep gonged a shot off the GA crossbar. At the other end, GA junior Christian Combs delivered a threatening serve into the left side of the Hillers' box, but junior Moje Badejoko cleared the ball away before any Patriots could reach it. The Hillers have been deploying three players in the back, Badejoko, fellow 11th-grader R.T. Genther, and senior Christian Vetter.
Following a fruitless corner kick for SCH, GA had sophomore Nick Veneziale fire a shot wide to the left. Patriots sophomore Tyler Weiss boomed a free kick from near midfield to the front of the visitors' goal, but SCH junior goalie Ben Rodgers punched the ball out of danger.
Rodgers was thrust into a starting role in the cage last season, and Zalasky noted that since then he has improved his play in the cage considerably and has grown much more confident in his abilities.
The first half ended with an SCH corner kick that produced an off-target header.
After a 0-0 opening period, five goals flowed onto the scoreboard during the second 40 minutes.
"In the first half we weren't attacking the ball as well as we could have," SCH's Zalasky admitted. "We had so many restarts - corner kicks and throw-ins - and to not really get anything out of them frustrated all of us. I think both teams made some adjustments at halftime. We moved a couple guys around in our midfield, and we talked about getting the ball out wide and getting crosses into the box."
GA's goalie last season was a seasoned senior, and so far this fall the Patriots have been splitting time in the cage between two keepers. Moyer, the senior, started last Thursday's game, and junior Joe Joe Cava took over at the beginning of the second half.
"They each bring something a little different to the position," noted Coach Wetzel. "Henry has more soccer experience, and Joe Joe gives us more size and a more aggressive attitude, which has both its positive and negative aspects."
Anchoring the defense in front of the alternating netminders are junior Connor Wetzel (the coach's son) and the aforementioned Weiss.
Cava was tested immediately in the second half as an early SCH corner kick generated a head ball that the junior keeper punched out of the box. Just a few minutes in, Rodgers had to make a diving save at the other end when GA senior Shane Connelly unleashed a hard shot from the right side of the box. On his second solid boot of the period, Connelly got GA on the board first, scoring with 31:45 left in regulation with each team missing a player thanks to a yellow card.
As the clock crossed under 28 minutes a corner kick sequence fizzled once more for the Hillers. They did not let GA clear the ball up the field, though, and when senior Ben Hayes served the ball back inside from the right wing, sophomore Collin Woehlcke was positioned in the left side of the box to head the ball in. The contest was tied, 1-1, with 27:08 on the ticker.
On a similar type of play six minutes later, the visitors took the lead as Koschineg (who has committed to Hobart/William Smith) scored with an assist from sophomore Ryan White.
The 2-1 count stayed on the ball for some time, then Springside Chestnut Hill scored a third time with 12:16 remaining. GA let a through ball find junior Casey Baker on a run up the middle, and he finished with a nice shot into the lower left corner.
At the moment, this goal seemed like a luxury, but it became a necessity. SCH's Rodgers had to scramble to grab a loose ball in the box around the nine-minute mark, and Germantown kept pressing. The Patriots got back within one with 4:28 to go, when Hackley fired from the right side across the cage and the ball glanced off a diving Rodgers and continued on into the net.
With just under two minutes to go, GA's Combs made a promising dash into the box a little left of center, then his shot carried over the crossbar. On a final Patriots assault, the Hillers' Rodgers had to leap to block a ball struck from the left by junior Jacob Lee. On a follow-up attempt, the GA contingent thought the ball contacted an SCH hand, but no call was made and the visitors came away with the win.