Nov 06, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Even in a new year, and with a new opponent, the Westhill boys soccer team faced the same stressful scenario Tuesday night in the Section III Class B championship game at Liverpool High School Stadium as it did 12 months ago.
Back in 2012, the Warriors trailed Cazenovia in the title game, but rallied to win. Here, Westhill trailed again against a hungry group of Lakers, this one from Skaneateles, and once again it would rally and lay claim to the sectional banner.
Going all-out at the start of the second half, the Warriors, thanks to a pair of goals from senior captain Barak BenYehuda, moved out in front, and would stay there, defeating Skaneateles 2-1.
“(When we trailed), we were nervous,” said BenYehuda. “But in the back of our minds, we knew that if we kept possessing the ball, we would be okay.”
These two teams had played twice in September, and both times Westhill prevailed by that same 2-1 margin. In neither of those games, though, were the stakes this high, and the Warriors didn’t trail in either of those earlier contests.
BenYehuda and his senior teammate, Tom Kinsella, both said that the fact that they went through this same sort of adversity before provided a lot of confidence.
That was needed in the wake of a first half that included all kinds of ebb and flow. Westhill pushed hard early, but soon found itself in a defensive mode as Skaneateles took advantage of defensive confusion to get some close-up looks.
Then, in the 17th minute, Lakers defender Nick Palmer, adept at throw-in plays, sent another one of his throws to the middle. The ball took a high bounce off the turf and eluded Westhill goalie Chris Burrows long enough to have Sam Clymer one-time a shot into the net.
For the rest of the half, Skaneateles protected that 1-0 lead, especially when the Warriors resumed its aggressive approach late in the half, as BenYehuda and Kinsella both missed point-blank chances to tie up the match.
Early in the second half, Lakers goalie Billy Patrick frustrated BenYehuda again with a tremendous save. But half a minute later, at the 2:56 mark, BenYehuda, off a series of crisp passes (the last of them from Mike Parasczak), hit one that Patrick could not stop, tying it 1-1.
Energized by that goal, the Warriors kept pushing, wearing down the Laker defenders. Then, in the 52nd minute, BenYehuda again found himself in prime position, taking Kinsella’s terrific pass from the right side and firing home the go-ahead goal.
Down the stretch, Westhill’s defense, forgetting its early troubles, did a superb job protecting that one-goal lead.
Fletcher Chapin, Jared Ristoff, Matt Perry, Alex Skeele and other back-line players turned away most of the chances, and Burrows worked his total to six saves. Clymer had the best chance to tie it with six minutes left, but his shot lofted just over the net.
Now Westhill has one bit of unfinished business – getting past the regional round, which it will try to do back at LHS Stadium on Saturday at 4:30 when it faces Section IV champion Oneonta.
The Warriors lost a bitter 1-0 decision to Susquehanna Valley in this same round a year ago, and badly want payback in order to advance to next weekend’s state Class B final four in Middletown.
“The seniors still have that sour taste in our mouths,” said Kinsella. “We want to get rid of it.”