Third-string keeper car­ries Unionville to win in penal­ties

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Neil Geoghe­gan ngeoghe­gan@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @NeilMGeoghe­gan on Twit­ter

EAST MARLBOROUGH >> In the sec­ond of two marathon ses­sions of high school soc­cer on Tuesday evening at Unionville, the host In­di­ans ad­vanced in round one of the boys Dis­trict 1 tour­na­ment with a ra­zor-thin 1-0 tri­umph over 19th-seeded Boy­er­town that ended on penalty kicks. An ear­lier first round girls clash also ended on PKs.

Fol­low­ing a score­less 80 min­utes of reg­u­la­tion plus two 15-minute over­times, Unionville won it 3-0 on penalty kicks, and did so with its third-string keeper in goal, fresh­man Alex Dolce. Reg­u­lar starter, Matt Nitz, suf­fered a pregame in­jury and his

backup, Gar­rett Pep­per, ex­ited with an in­jury in the sec­ond half.

“But Alex is a good goalie and he stepped up big for us,” said Unionville head coach Rich Gar­ber. “Our men­tal­ity of the next guy up is kind of what we’ve been do­ing all sea­son.”

Seeded 14th, the In­di­ans (12-5-2 over­all) ad­vance to Thurs­day’s sec­ond round matchup with No. 3 Coun­cil Rock North. Boy­er­town’s sea­son ends with a 13-8 mark.

“It’s very dis­ap­point­ing,” said Boy­er­town head coach Scott Didy­oung. “We had some op­por­tu­ni­ties that we squan­dered.

“In the last seven or eight years, we’ve lost our first round dis­trict match ei­ther in over­time or on PKs. It’s a string we just can’t seem to get over the hump. It’s re­ally too many to count.”

In a close bat­tle that fea­tured mul­ti­ple saves by non-goal­tenders on both sides and sev­eral shots that came pre­car­i­ously close only to bounce off the cross bar, the In­di­ans seemed to gain some mo­men­tum on the two over­time ses­sions. And it showed on the PKs.

Ini­tial goals by Unionville’s Michael Hewes and Eric Greer put the Bears in trou­ble right from the start after Ben Wise and Owen Kulig each missed the net on Boy­er­town’s first two penalty kick ef­forts. Im­me­di­ately after Dolce de­nied Nikhil Verma, In­di­ans’ de­fender Kyle Garvy ended it.

“I knew their third guy (Verma) there best guy and when Alex stoned him, that’s when I started to think we could pull this one out,” Unionville head coach Rich Gar­ber said.

Early in dou­ble over­time, a Greer laser hit the Boy­er­town cross­bar. And in the first OT, Boy­er­town got a big save from de­fender Owen Kulig on a shot by Hewes.

Amaz­ingly, the over­times al­most didn’t hap­pen. With less than 10 sec­onds in reg­u­la­tion, Unionville’s Mark Echevar­ria nearly ended it dra­mat­i­cally when his long, loop­ing shot from about 40-yards out caught Boy­er­town’s Con­nor McKe­own out of po­si­tion. The shot went over the goal­tender’s head but bounced squarely off the cross bar.

“It’s rough that we had all of those cross­bar hits, but I’m glad we stuck to it and kept go­ing,” Greer said. “When you get close like that, it ac­tu­ally pumps you up, but you have to for­get about it and get back into the game.”

The best scor­ing chance in the open­ing 60 min­utes of ac­tion came mid­way through the sec­ond half, when Unionville’s Hunter Fir­ment sent a cen­ter­ing pass to Greer, and he lofted it to Evan Ben­nis. And even though his header had beaten McKe­own, it was turned away by alert de­fender Erik Recke.

Not to be out­done, the In­di­ans re­turned the fa­vor in the fi­nal two min­utes of reg­u­la­tion when the Bears’ Jimmy Tow­ers ap­peared to beat In­di­ans keeper Gar­rett Pep­per, only to have de­fender Gar­rett Ham­maker make the save.

“I thought our de­fense was solid all night,” Gar­ber said.

“I told our guys to have fun with it. En­joy it. I think they did.”

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