By Dan Walk
The General McLane boys soccer team relied on its defense while averaging two goals per game this season. That said, the focus at practice during the week and a half leading up to the Lancers’ District 10 Class AA quarterfinal clash with Conneaut was finishing at the goal offensively.
McLane’s attention to offense paid off on Wednesday at Franklin High School during a convincing 7-0 victory over the Eagles.
“I think finishing was a big thing today,” General McLane head coach Josh Hopkins said. “We got some bodies forward and we put our chances in. With the weather, we focused on making sure we got more quality opportunties.”
The Lancers (11-6-2) will now face Region 4 champion Warren (14-4) today at 7 p.m. in Harbor Creek.
McLane provided a powerful attack during the first half, scoring four times on just six shots on goal. The Lancers had 17 shots on goal to Conneaut’s five and never let off the accelerator. They added three second-half goals, including Bryan Olson’s score with six seconds left in the game.
Olson and Matt McCallion scored twice, while McCallion also had an assist. Zack Benedict added a goal and an assist, and Daniel Ahn and Parker McDermott also found the back of the net. Andy Zalik also registered an assist.
Senior keeper Kirk Dillen recorded his eighth shutout of the season. Dillen and the GM defense didn’t allow the Eagles (9-8-2) many great looks near the goal.
“It was a pretty standard day at the office for the defense,” Hopkins said. “Those guys back there did their job. Kirk’s a great goalkeeper. The back four make sure he gets minimal shots on him.”
The Lancers, who won last year’s Class AA district crown, lost 10 seniors to graduation. Dillen is among the few returning starters.
“I thought we relied on some of our playoffs experience,” Hopkins said. “We won D-10 last year and our mindset is we’re going to do our best to defend our title. That’s our challenge as a coaching staff to make sure we do our best to reload and get them going.”
Conneaut’s options to score were few and far between. GM didn’t dominate ball control, but the Eagles couldn’t convert once they were on the Lancers’ side of the field.
The Eagles’ best chance at a score was a shot that rung off the crossbar with under 13 minutes remaining. By then, it was already 5-0 Lancers.
“I just wish we could have had a better game,” Conneaut head coach Alan Wise said. “It was just unfortunate mistakes and errors. It was just lack of aggressiveness on the whole team.
“I think General McLane won most 50-50 balls and then when we had our chances, we just broke down with bad passes. ... Every ball went to their defense. Nothing got really behind them.”
Ahn scored an unassited goal at the 11th minute and Olson followed in the 14th. Benedict assisted McDermott’s score in the 27th minute before he added his own goal in the 32nd. McCallion’s goals came in the 52nd and 74th minutes.
Conneaut’s inaugural season came to an end following Wednesday’s defeat. So concludes the coaching career of Wise. He has spent 20 years coaching soccer, including since 2009 with Conneaut Area School District, and now plans to spend more time as a soccer referee.
“I’m proud for the seniors,” Wise said. “They got to taste the playoff experience.”
Today, the Lancers hope to avenge a 4-2 loss on Oct. 13 at Warren in order to have a shot at defending their district championship.
“I think we’re in a good spot mentally, so we’re looking forward to playing again (today),” Hopkins said.