By Pete Chiodo
Saegertown head boys soccer coach Ryan Schenck would have preferred one of his players to have scored the goal.
“But whoever puts it in,” he said, “it counts just the same.”
He’s talking about the second-period own goal that went against Wilmington, which proved to be the deciding factor in Saegertown’s 2-0 victory over the Region 2 champion Greyhounds in the quarterfinal round of the District 10 Class AA playoffs held at General McLane High School’s Ed Linden Field on Wednesday.
The win advances Saegertown (14-4-1) to today’s semifinal round. The Panthers will face Region 5 champion Harbor Creek at 5 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Erie.
“We definitely battled hard and played good soccer,” Schenck said about yesterday’s match. “Mostly it was effort and hard work and battling, whatever it took. They played like they wanted it.”
After a scoreless first half in which neither team could get much going offensively (Wilmington had four shots but just one on goal, Saegertown had three shots with one on goal) the Panthers upped the pressure immediately in the second half.
“We made our pace a little faster (in the second half),” said Saegertown junior forward Matt Schenberg.
Nine minutes into the period, the Cats had a whole gang of attackers heading toward Wilmington’s goal. Schenberg had possession off to the right. He crossed the ball in. And while Saegertown had a couple forwards streaking in to play the ball — Peter Mattocks and Brendan Byham among them — it was instead one of Wilmington’s defenders who made the contact that knocked it into the net.
That would end up being all the offense Saegertown needed. But it would not be all the Panthers would get.
Over the final 15 minutes of the game, Wilmington moved the student body up and was trying desperately to get the equalizer. The tactic earned the Greyhounds a few chances, including one corner kick that was cleared on a nice defensive header by Jeff Mattocks; and a pair of shots on goal that were knocked away by keeper Ross Ferguson.
That stretch, said Schenberg, “was a little bit nerve-wracking.”
Then with just about a minute to play, the Panthers cleared out one of Wilmington’s attacks. Mattocks launched a beauty of an overhead pass forward to Schenberg who got free and had a one-on-one with Wilmington’s goalkeeper Derek Nichols.
Nichols raced out to confront Schenberg. But the Panthers junior hacky-sacked the bouncing ball off the inside of his foot, lobbing it over Nichols’ head and into the twine, slamming the door on a Wilmington comeback.
“Even though Matt’s only been playing for a couple years, he’s figured out how to be calm,” said Schenck. “And he lobbed it perfectly. I couldn’t have done it better myself and I’ve played for 30 years. It was brilliant. It was the nicest goal he’s scored all season. It was very skillful to play the lob over the keeper like that.”
Ferguson finished the evening with three saves to earn the shutout.
As for today’s match with Harbor Creek:
“We played them the last two years because they were in our region,” said Schenck. “And it was always a good battle. They always beat us, but we always played them tight. Hopefully we can do that again.”
Will playing two in a row be tough?
“These guys have done it,” said Schenck. “We beat Warren one day and beat Conneaut the next. And we played another back-to-back series and I believe we won both of them as well. So, we can do it. We’d prefer not to without a super deep roster. But we’ll go out there and battle and play like we want it and see what happens.”