PETE CHIODO/Meadville Tribune
The Meadville boys soccer team did not end its season with a win. The Bulldogs did, however, end the season showing just how far they’ve come as a team.
At the beginning of the month, Meadville looked adrift in a 5-0 loss to Region 6 opponent Central Tech.
For the rematch on Tuesday at Bender Field, the Bulldogs gave the visiting Falcons a real battle. But playoff-bound Tech prevailed 2-1.
“The first time we played them we lost 5-0,” said Meadville head coach John McGlinn. “We had hardly any shots on goal. We were just out of it. This time, the guys came out and worked hard. They fought. I’m proud of them.”
Meadville ends its season with a record of 10-7-1 (six wins better than last year) and a 0-6-0 mark in Region 6 (the same as last season).
“They played as a team the whole season,” said McGlinn. “They worked hard for each other. No complaints. We’re 0-6 in region. But it’s tough competing against those teams from Erie. They’ve got a lot of skilled players. We only lost to Prep by one goal each game. And this one we lost by one goal. So we were in it. I wish we could have won it.”
The victory was an important one for Central (11-6-0, 4-2-0 Region 6), as it was trying to hold on to second place in the region. However, Cathedral Prep upset McDowell 3-1 last night, meaning the regular season ends with a three-way tie for first between Prep, McDowell and Central.
With only two spots in the Class AAA bracket, Central Tech head coach Bob Plonski believes there will be a play-in match or matches for the two spots.
“We’d be tri-champions,” said Plonski. “We’re pretty happy. This is the second time ever (making the playoffs) on the Triple-A level. (The last time) was 2003.”
And the win was a hard-fought one for Central.
“Yes it was, absolutely” said Plonski. “I give a lot of kudos to Meadville. They stayed right in the game, 0-0 in the first half, and then came out and scored the first goal of the second and put us under pressure a little bit. But as I told my boys, the character that they showed to finish the game, it is indescribable for me.”
The Falcons dominated the first half of action, recording numerous shots during the period. However, Bulldogs goalkeeper Tanner Stanton was standing on his head, turning away seven tries on net in just the opening period.
“Tanner did a great job,” said McGlinn.
It appeared that Central had scored a goal in the 26th minute when Andrew Delgado’s header went into the back of the net. However, the goal was waved off due to an offsides.
Frustration was setting in for Central Tech.
That frustration turned to sheer anxiety two minutes into the first half when Meadville’s Troy Hovis put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard with a fantastic shot from 25 yards out that zoomed over the head of Central goalie Dawson Beloga.
“That was a beautiful shot,” said McGlinn. “You could see it coming. He had enough space and he has a good shot. So he put his head down and nailed it into the back of the net.”
The goal did, however, seemed to put the Falcons backs against the wall. They needed to do something or their playoff hopes would fall away.
“It made us start to think, ‘It’s time to get moving,’” said Plonski.
Four minutes after Hovis’ goal, Central got the opportunity it was looking for when Meadville was called for a foul inside the box, giving Zhafar Dzhuburov an up-close try on a penalty kick.
Stanton didn’t have a chance, and Dzhuburov tied up the match.
“It was unfortunate we gave up the PK,” said McGlinn. “But you can’t complain. It was a pretty hard challenge (that resulted in the penalty).”
That’s where the game would remain for a while. Meadville had a couple nice tries on goal, but they were turned away by Beloga.
Then with 2:58 left in the match, Central Tech had a crowd in Meadville’s penalty box. The ball lined itself up for Dzhuburov. He tapped it in. Stanton got a hand on it, but it wasn’t enough to keep it out of the goal.
The game was the last for Meadville’s seniors — Patrick Adams, Will DeArment, Brandon Owens, Steven Heflin, Sam Wyman, Stanton, Dane Cessna, Vince Paczkoskie and Ethan Mona.