With a late surge, GA boys top Hun in opener, 4-2

by Tom Utescher
Posted 9/15/21

After several early soccer scrimmages for each side, the boys of Germantown Academy and visiting Hun School met for their first official game of 2021 last Friday in GA's Carey Stadium.

The host …

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With a late surge, GA boys top Hun in opener, 4-2


After several early soccer scrimmages for each side, the boys of Germantown Academy and visiting Hun School met for their first official game of 2021 last Friday in GA's Carey Stadium.

The host Patriots controlled most of the play in the first half, but several missed scoring opportunities meant that they only held a modest 1-0 lead at halftime. The Hun Raiders seemed transformed early in the second half, mustering more energy than their hosts and seizing a 2-1 lead in less than five minutes. The first marker for the visitors from Princeton had come on a penalty kick, and midway through the second half Germantown junior Eli Torrey answered this goal in kind to tie the match at 2-2.

That score was still on the board as the clock dipped under two minutes remaining, and it appeared that the game was headed for overtime. In the end, GA solved Hun's defense and senior Christian Combs scored twice in the final 79 seconds, giving the Patriots a 4-2 victory.

Combs came away with a hat trick, having also accounted for the Germantown goal in the first half. In the GA cage, sophomore keeper Josh Bouchard made eight saves.

"This was a good stepping stone going into next week, when we play two tough out-of-league teams," remarked Kurt Wetzel, who is beginning his fourth season as GA head coach. "I think there was some tension building late in the game with the game still tied, but in the end, we were able to settle down and just play. We had unselfish goals today; the players trust each other."

The Patriots' Combs, a striker, is one of the three GA captains this season, along with classmates Sean Lipschutz (midfield/forward) and Connor Wetzel (a defender and the son of Coach Wetzel). They started against Hun School, along with fellow seniors Jacob Lee (defense) and Brett Rabbiner (midfield).

Four juniors started in last Friday's opener, Torrey (midfield), Colin León (midfield/forward), Jack Strauss (defense/midfield), and Nick Venziale (midfield/forward). Goalie Bouchard was joined in a starting role by sophomore classmate Roan Harrington (defense/midfield).

GA was clearly a smaller team physically than Hun, and the Patriots definitely appeared quicker in the first half. Most of the time, they moved the ball effectively with short passes, keeping it on the ground.

Germantown attacked early and earned the first corner kick of the bout, sending the ball a little too high out in the box. León and Combs made promising runs, but León fouled a defender and then Hill goalie Ayden Isbirian came out of the cage to stop Combs' charge.

A little after GA's Torrey sent a shot over the visitors' crossbar, Bouchard came out of the goal at the other end to grab one of many long tosses made by Hun's throw-in specialist.

A strong high shot by GA's Lipschutz bent back Ibsirian's fingertips but then hit the crossbar. On the other half of the field Rabbiner, defending on the right wing, and Lee, in the middle, were doing a good job of foiling offensive forays by the Raiders.

It was still 0-0 as the clock cut into the final 10 minutes of the first half. Well on the outside on the left flank, Combs settled the ball, sized things up, and then blasted a shot high into the right side of the visitors' goal. GA was on the board with 6:27 remaining.

From the middle, a shot by sophomore Ryan Szczepkowski sailed above the Hun goal and through the football goalposts behind it, and soon the half ended with Germantown still holding a 1-0 edge.

Wetzel related, "At halftime, all three of us [coaches] reminded them that it was only 1-0, and they were going to make adjustments. The challenge was to not sit back on our laurels. We should have had a few more in the first half, but we didn't finish."

Meanwhile, the Hun players were admonished by their leaders for being outhustled and outplayed by the Patriots in the first half. The Raiders had a different look as the second half began. They sped up their game, used their height better on balls in the air, and used their strength when contending for possession on the ground.

Wetzel said, "You could hear their coach: 'High press, let's go!' They changed their format and they matched us up and started playing physically. I think we got back on our heels a bit, and we weren't talking."

Awarded a penalty kick with just four minutes and one second elapsed, Hun senior Osman Bayazitoglu converted just inside the right post to tie the game. Bringing the ball in along the right endline, the Raiders had junior William Zeng score about a minute later to go up 2-1.

The visitors would control much of the play awhile longer but they would never garner a third goal, thanks in part to solid play by GA's young goalie, Bouchard. After a bit, the vigor Hun displayed at the outset of the second half faded somewhat as the Patriots stepped up in response.

With 22:12 left to play, the hosts pulled even at 2-2 when Torrey took a penalty kick and scored on the left side.

In the last quarter of the contest some yellow cards were handed out, but there were no situations that really got out of hand.

In fact, Coach Wetzel remarked on the de-escalation of an encounter between Hun's Aden Spektor and his own Eli Torrey. The two players became entangled and ended up on the ground, but the athletes chose not to let the plot take a more contentious turn.

The GA coach commented, "Their young man was a class act, offered his hand to our guy to help him up. They showed each other respect, and went back to the game. For me, those things can be more important than the "W."

Still, the tie score remained on the board as time ticked away. Wetzel took some of his starters off the field, one at a time, to get them mentally ready for the finishing phase of the game.

"There were quick conversations with some simple directions," he explained. "The main point was to get them to relax and focus just on the things they were doing on the field, not the overall situation. We calmed down, communicated, and put some passes together."

With a minute and a half remaining, León brought the ball down the left wing and crossed it inside. Sealing the far post, Rabbiner got a foot on the ball, but not very solidly, and it remained loose in front of the cage. Backing up his teammate, Combs came in from farther out on the right and punched the ball in. What would become the winning goal was in the books with 1:19 remaining. GA kept attacking, and Combs came in along the left endline for a sharply-angled shot that put the 4-2 final score on the board with 16.8 seconds on the clock.


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