The Stanstead College senior boys soccer Spartans played host to the Alexander Galt Pipers in an ETIAC semifinal playoff game on Monday, October 23 on Philip Field and came away with a hard-fought 1-0 win.
Stanstead started the game extremely well. We were all up for this match, excited to play, and ready for what the Pipers would throw at us. To Galt’s credit, they knew what we had in store for them, too, as this game was the fifth occasion we faced one another this season.
It didn’t take the Spartans long to find their tempo and passing rhythm as we strung passes between our defenders, midfielders and wingers that unlocked the Piper defence and allowed us to create a couple of excellent early scoring chances. Henry Riddell was his usual lively self and was only too keen to get his team the lead, but a couple of crosses, first from Gabriel De Santis then Liam Wallace, were struck well but just wide of and over the net respectively. While Riddell did not find the back of the net in this match, he would play a pivotal role later in the game.
Both defensive back lines were strong in the first half, denying any openings for balls to be played through, and they challenged for every 50/50 ball and air ball. It didn’t take long to reconcile the fact that this game would be a low-scoring affair, thanks to the stingy mood of both teams’ defenders. The stats told the story of the first half… 4 Spartan shots, 1 on target – 1 Piper shot, 0 on target. Despite the strong defensive play, especially that of centre backs Chaz Grenier and Mauricio Lopez, fullbacks Mason Beasse and Liam Wallace, the quality of the game was good with each team looking to play the ball on the ground in hopes of building a solid attack that would break down the opposition. The half flew by in what seemed like no time at all and before we knew it the referee blew his whistle for the halftime interval.
The CAIS tournament was an awesome experience because it taught us a great deal about the game and about ourselves, especially in the opportunities against powerhouses like LCC and St. Andrew’s College. One such lesson was that we knew we had more energy and ability in the tank than we thought we did. They made us believe we could always give more. And, at this juncture of our playoff game, we knew we had to step our game up a level and show more urgency. Not that the first half was poor, because it wasn’t, but we knew we could exert ourselves further. Recognizing this fact, we really went to work in the second half.
We opened the second half by scoring, or at least we thought we did, except we were judged to be offside. Spartan assistant coach ‘Doccie’ Standage still adamantly believes the goal was a good one, but unfortunately, he wasn’t officiating. No matter. Twelve shots were fired on the Piper goal, with five being very good scoring chances and a few going wide that would have been high quality as well had we been more opportunistic in front of goal. Luke DeLaBruere’s right-footed blast from just inside the penalty area was labelled for the far side of the goal only to be thwarted by the lightning-quick reflexes of the Piper keeper. Erik Fabian’s well-directed header off a corner kick looked like it was goalward-bound until Piper #1 flashed out his long arms and snared the ball.
The Spartans’ sustained pressure in the Galt half of the field and especially in and around the penalty area was impressive, but it wasn’t yielding the type of results we were looking for, especially with time winding down. These moments brought back haunting memories of our home game vs MVR before Thanksgiving, where we were in solid control of the game, outshooting and out-chancing them, but we couldn’t finish off the opponent. Déjà vu, perhaps?
As has become our custom, the boys kept their heads down and continued to work in and around the Galt backline, particularly down our right wing where midfielders DeLaBruere, De Santis, Riddell, Matteo Paradis and Ryder Bustos combined plays and threaded passes that began to create some excellent crosses into the Piper box. Fullback Wallace, keen on becoming involved himself, often provided the initial pass that set the attackers into action.
Just when it looked like we might be heading into the 9 vs 9 overtime format, the boys made one more big push. In the dying moments -- and I mean the dying moments -- of the second half, Erik Fabian timed his attacking run to a “T” when he got on the end of Gabe De Santis’ cross from the right wing and flicked the ball with the outside of his right cleat past the Piper goalkeeper and into the back of the net, and off he ran in celebration, with his teammates in hot pursuit, and jumped into the collective embrace of the varsity boys hockey team who were cheering the boys on from the sideline. What a special Spartan moment! Thanks, boys! Time of the goal… 39 minutes and a few seconds to spare!
Just to clarify, games at the senior level of play are made up of two halves of 40 minutes. Try as we did, it took all we had and then some to finally beat the Galt goalkeeper, who faced 13 shots in total and kept them all out except for the very last one. Great Spartan defence led by goalkeeper Emanuel Ganz and his backline earned them their 8th clean sheet (shutout) of the season.
With the win, Stanstead now travels to Richmond on Wednesday, October 25 to play the Richmond Regional High School Knights, who knocked out the MVR Vikings 1-0 in the other semifinal game. The season’s results between the Spartans and Knights were close, very close, with each team winning on home soil… RRHS 3-1 in September, and Stanstead winning last week, 3-0. It should be a dandy ETIAC senior boys soccer championship game beginning at 3:45pm. Let’s go!