SC 0 at Galt 0
A lacklustre start by the visiting Spartans allowed the Galt Pipers to gain the early territorial advantage in play. Save for one moment, Galt created a couple of scoring chances, although they were from a distance and easily gathered by Stanstead goalkeeper Emanuel Ganz. That one moment came about 20 minutes into the game when a well-played Piper through ball put their striker within clear sight of goal. But central defender Chaz Grenier turned on the afterburners, caught up and slide-tackled the ball out of harm’s way. Thankfully, Ganz was in near vicinity and gathered the ball safely.
Speaking of Ganz, he and his band of defending brothers, playing just ahead of him, really carried the team until halftime, as they broke up plays, intercepted passes, tackled well and kept the game scoreless. At the break, the Spartan coaches addressed the need for more intensity and urgency in our play from our midfield and attackers and for the team to quickly develop the courage to keep better possession of the ball.
The second half was better for the Spartans as they turned on the pressure and forced the home team to play more often in their own half than in the Spartan half of the field. Unfortunately, the Spartan momentum, which we patiently then desperately waited for in the first half, dissipated when Luke DeLaBruere, with about 12 minutes left in the game, was fouled badly inside the Galt penalty area. Much to the chagrin of every Spartan player, the referee did not award a penalty shot; instead, he waved the play on. This decisive error in judgement clearly demoralized the Spartans who, by this event and time, just wanted to see out the remainder of the game and walk away unscathed.
Galt is not an easy place to play because the home team always play hard and with lots of energy and enthusiasm. They do not make it easy for any visiting team. This was a good lesson for the Spartans, who need such instances of adversity to redirect emotions and thoughts into channels that produce a more positive and resilient mindset. Final score: 0-0.
SC 2 at Richmond Regional HS 3
Twenty-four hours after departing the beautiful fall canvas that our campus is at this time of year, the Spartan boys were heading up highway 55 instead of the 143 and this time to the equally beautiful Eastern Townships community of Richmond and to face the Knights. As we quickly found out from the home team, there would be no easy games nor opponents in this year’s senior boys’ ETIAC soccer league. The Knights loved the fact that we had played the day before and were only too happy to take advantage of another slow, lacklustre Spartan start to the game. First to every – and I mean every – 50-50 ball, the home team were relentless in pressuring us time after time and in all areas of the field. The Knights’ competitive mindset produced a goal in the twelfth minute of play, when after their corner kick and despite two to three failed Spartan attempts at clearing the ball, a Knights player pounced on a loose ball and slammed it into the upper reaches of the Stanstead goal. 1-0 Richmond and luckily for us, we escaped the half with the slim disadvantage.
Unfortunately, the second half began in much the same way the first half finished, with Richmond pressuring us and forcing giveaways, many of which were in our own half of the field. Three minutes into the half, an errant Spartan turnover was placed quickly and succinctly into the back of our net. 2-0 Knights. The last time we found ourselves down by two goals was in game one at MVR, and the big question this time was, do we have it in us to bounce back in similar fashion. The response to this question was a resounding effort to get back into the game and at least try to level the scoreline. At 18 minutes, the Spartans finally broke through after a sequence of passes from the defence to the midfield, out to the right wing and then a great Erik Fabian cross in front of goal was finished off by Jordan Ilunga. 2-1 Knights and the Spartans were on the comeback trail.
Sometimes soccer is a cruel game. Wet weather conditions make fields slippery; sunlight is often in the eyes of players when playing on east-west facing fields; wind can be problematic and cause indecision; and bumps on uneven terrain yield wobbly passes, too. Well, just when it looked like the Spartans were in full flight, a mix up in communication and a wobbly back pass led to a moment of chaos in the Stanstead penalty area that resulted in a collision. I can still hear the shrill of the official’s whistle and then… the players froze. Time stood still until the referee pointed to the penalty spot indicating a Knight’s penalty kick, which the shooter dispatched with confident accuracy. 3-2 Knights and, with only 10 minutes to play, the Spartans had a mountain to climb if they wanted to get any kind of result in this game. True to character our boys fought back and sent countless long centering passes from the wings into the goalmouth only to be collected by the Knights’ goalkeeper, cleared away by his attentive defenders, or shot at the opposing keeper or wide of goal. Everything, including the kitchen sink, was thrown at the Richmond goal, but no more goals would come the Spartans’ way on this day. Final score: Richmond 3 – Spartans 2.
Stanstead 2 at BCS 1 (BCS Homecoming Game)
The Stanstead-BCS rivalry series game #2 took place on the sun-soaked Grant Field on the campus of BCS on Saturday, September 29. It was the return match in the series, with game one played at Stanstead, and a 1-0 win for the Spartans.
This game was a tough match in a few ways for the boys wearing red & white. First, BCS needed no extra motivation to get up for this match. The Bears never like losing to their foes to the south on Highway 143. Secondly, they would have some added support in the form of their alumni returning to cheer them on from the sidelines. Thirdly, injuries were mounting up and this, combined with the fact that two starting Spartans who would normally be in the starting lineup were unavailable. Senior and team captain, Chaz Grenier, and Grade 11 player, Mason Béasse, two wonderfully gifted athletes, were in Montreal attending Team Quebec rugby tryouts. This meant that everyone on the game day roster would have to elevate their game.
And that’s precisely what happened. After conceding an early goal in the first five minutes that was totally against the run of play, Stanstead showed wonderful resiliency in recognizing the Bears’ goal was nothing more than a blip, and it would not impede or derail the Spartans strong early showing. The large, expansive field that is the Grant pitch allowed Stanstead to utilize the increased space to keep possession, make forward runs and add more players into the Spartan attack. We surprised ourselves with how well and often we kept the ball and the number of scoring chances we created. This good work increased our confidence as the game progressed. Our good work was rewarded in the 18th minute when Josh Lippmann, after great combination play on the left wing with Will Towner and Ryder Busto, was heavily fouled by the BCS captain inside their penalty area. Up stepped grade 11 midfielder, Jordan Ilunga, to take the penalty shot. Jordan’s shot into the top right corner of the net gave the BCS goalkeeper no chance, but it did level the score at 1-1.
The second half proved to be an even better 40 minutes of play for Stanstead than the first stanza. While the Bears did produce some scoring chances, all but one came from distance and were well-handled by Spartan keeper, Emanuel Ganz. More on Ganz in a moment. Stanstead’s domination of ball possession allowed them to spend most of the half in the BCS end of the field. Additionally, we created many good scoring chances, both from the run of play and the freekicks that were conceded by the Bears in and around their penalty area. Unfortunately for us, we either missed the net or shot right at the Bears goalkeeper. To his credit, he saved them all.
However, in the 59th minute, it was Lippmann again in the penalty area, doing his best to either get a shot away or find an open Spartan teammate to pass to, who was brought down on an errant Bears’ tackle. This time Josh grabbed the ball, placed it on the white dot twelve yards away from the goal line and then smashed it into the bottom left-hand corner to give the Spartans a deserved 2-1 lead.
Now, back to Ganz. For much of the half, Emanuel’s concerns were more mental than physical. He had to maintain concentration for long stretches over the physical nature of having to stop shots, crosses, through balls or deal with back passes. However, in what is easily the highlight of the season to date, Ganz, with 7 minutes left in the contest, was called upon to make the most eye-catching, jaw dropping and the did-he-just-really-do-that save. The BCS forward unleashed a bullet, just inside the Spartan 18-yard box, aimed directly for the top left-hand corner of the Spartan goal. For a mere fraction of a second, I sat on the end of the Spartan bench bemoaning how this game-tying goal would be so unjust given our advantage in territorial play, ball possession, and shots. I snapped back to reality when Emanuel exploded off the ground, dove to his right and snagged the laser beamed shot. It was a truly remarkable play by our very alert and athletic keeper. The play was worthy of consideration for TSN’s highlight of the night, no question. The reaction on our team bench was monumental. Every member of the team, coaching staff included, sprang off the bench in amazement to celebrate this skill defining moment. Way-to-go, Mani!
With the surge of inspiration provided by ‘the save’, the Spartans took the ball into the Bears’ end of the field and ran the clock down to zero. What a great team performance and a well-deserved Spartans 2-1 win!