Nov 01, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
By all accounts, the Westhill boys soccer team should have found itself at SUNY-Cortland last Friday night, dealing with Marcellus with a shot at reclaiming the Section III Class B crown it last wore in 2004.
Instead, the Warriors’ season ended in the most difficult manner possible — a defeat to the Lowville Red Raiders in a 4-2 penalty-kick shoot-out during Tuesday’s Class B semifinals at Chittenango High School after they played to a 1-1 draw.
If Westhill wanted to point to anyone for the reason why it all went wrong, it could point right to Lowville goalkeeper Zach Haenlin, who made superb stops throughout the game, then did it twice more in the shoot-out.
Even before the game, Westhill head coach Roland Ficken said he figured Lowville would pack in its defense around Haenlin because it did not possess the vast array of speed and skill players the Warriors could boast about.
By the 16th minute, the Raiders had even more of a reason to turn defensive. Off a free kick in the middle, Matt Gravely ripped a low shot past Westhill goalkeeper Ben Wind just inside the right post, giving Lowville a 1-0 edge.
And it would stay that way for a while. By halftime, the Warriors were starting to dominate the flow of play, forcing the Raiders to surround Haenlin and make sure he didn’t have to do all the work.
The second half mostly amounted to a 40-minute cycle where Vince Scaravillo, Tim Murphy, Ross Martin and Matt Kavanaugh all took their turns dribbling deep into Lowville’s end. Still, they were forced into bad shots or, in the case of corner kicks and free kicks, saw their set plays fall apart.
Haenlin continued to be superb. In the 56th minute, he jumped to tip a dangerous Murphy shot just over the net. With 9:05 left, he made a remarkable save on Kavanaugh, who directed the shot toward Hanelin even though the right side of the net was unoccupied.
Finally, with exactly seven minutes left in regulation, Scaravillo’s cross from the left led to a scramble, and Murphy forced his shot past Haenlin to earn a 1-1 tie.
And it would stay at 1-1 through the rest of regulation, plus a pair of 15-minute, sudden-death overtime periods. Again, Westhill attacked hard. Again, Haenlin and the Lowville defenders turned it all away. Wind also had to make a couple of crucial stops in the rare cases where the Raiders pushed forward.
So it all came down to the scenario Westhill and every other good team wishes to avoid — a shoot-out, where each side gets five penalty kicks. Top seed and defending champion Clinton had fallen to Cazenovia in a similar circumstance just two days earlier in the Class B quarterfinals.
Westhill went first, and Martin converted. Haenlin took Lowville’s first kick and was successful, too.
Up next, Kavanaugh went low and left — but Haenlin dove and made a spectacular stop. When Isaac Bushey made his shot, Lowville went up 2-1.
Jesse Hunt took his turn. He tried the low shot, to the right, but Haenlin again guessed right and grabbed it. Christian Sterner made it three-for-three for Lowville, and now the Warriors were on the brink.
Scaravillo took Westhill off the brink by solving Haenlin — but seconds later, when Zach Taylor’s shot eluded Wind, Lowville had a date with Marcellus in Friday night’s Class B final.
Meanwhile, Westhill had to cope with the sudden and surprising end to a 17-1-2 season that featured an OHSL Liberty division title and a spot in the state Class B top 10 — but not a sectional banner.
Now the Warriors must see 12 seniors depart, a group that includes Wind, Kavanaugh, Hunt, Tim Byrne, Willie Fischer, Ryan Spinek, Kevin Esposito, Eric Garofano and John Pelligrini. The offense in 2008 could be unstoppable with Martin, Scarvaillo, Murphy, Ben Owens and Andy McBride around, while Aaron Hunt is sure to anchor the defensive side after starting this fall as a sophomore.