Hill earns re­turn to PAISAA fi­nals

Blues shut down MAPL ri­val Mercers­burg 2-0 in state semi­fi­nal

The Mercury (Pottstown, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Austin Hert­zog ahert­zog@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @AustinHert­zog on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN » Act like you’ve been there be­fore.

In the Hill School boys soc­cer team’s case, it has been and knows just how to get there.

‘There’ is the Pa. In­de­pen­dent Schools Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion cham­pi­onship game and The Hill earned its place in it for a sixth straight sea­son Thurs­day evening with a poised and op­por­tunis­tic per­for­mance in a 2-0 vic­tory over Mercers­burg Academy on Harry Price Field.

Se­nior Euan For­rest and se­nior Hale Lom­bard found the net for the Blues, who set up a state fi­nal re­match with Spring­side-Chest­nut Hill Academy, a 1-0 win­ner over Kiski School in Thurs­day’s other semi­fi­nal. The fi­nal goes down at 7:30 p.m. on Wed­nes­day, Nov. 14 at Im­mac­u­lata Univer­sity.

The Blues man­aged to blank a Mercers­burg team that was out for blood af­ter Hill won their reg­u­larsea­son meet­ing 3-2 on Oct. 27 in a match that ef­fec­tively de­cided the Mid-At­lantic Prep League cham-

“With the stakes be­ing what they are and what we’ve been through this sea­son, putting our bod­ies on the line or tak­ing an ex­tra step for the any­one of the guys isn’t some­thing we have the think about, we just do it. Ev­ery­one cares about the team so much and we want suc­cess so much.” – Hill School se­nior cen­ter back Ai­dan Sul­li­van

pi­o­nship. They did it with an ex­pe­ri­enced de­fen­sive dis­play fea­tur­ing the cen­ter back tan­dem of For­rest and class­mate Ai­dan Sul­li­van, out­side backs Caleb Gerde­man and Ai­den Wool­ley and goal­keeper Alan Kim.

“I think hav­ing a back four that went through this all last year – even though the rest of our team is very young – they have been there and done that and have brought a calm to the group that has al­lowed our keeper to ma­ture from where he was up to tonight, where he was out­stand­ing,” Hill head coach Chris Drowne said.

That group wasn’t shy about block­ing shots against the Storm’s ca­pa­ble at­tack and al­lowed only three shots on goal.

“With the stakes be­ing what they are and what we’ve been through this sea­son, putting our bod­ies on the line or tak­ing an ex­tra step for the any­one of the guys isn’t some­thing we have the think about, we just do it,” Sul­li­van said. “Ev­ery­one cares about the team so much and we want suc­cess so much.”

Of the Storm’s three shots, two were ex­cel­lent scor­ing chances for Mercers­burg se­nior stand­out Sam Mor­gan, but ju­nior Kim ex­pertly stopped both, the first with a quick-re­ac­tion, low save to his right in the 10th minute that was a turn­ing point af­ter the Storm bossed the start of the match.

“That save changes the whole game,” Sul­li­van said. “They had the mo­men­tum at that point and that com­pletely killed their mo­men­tum. And five or 10 min­utes later we put one in the net.”

Hill worked its way into the game there­after and quickly got their re­ward on a Sam Beck­ett cor­ner kick de­liv­ered right on a plat­ter for For­rest, whose wideopen header gave Hill a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute.

With the mid­field trio of Beck­ett, Lom­bard and Chance An­to­nio hav­ing worked its way into the game, the Blues es­sen­tially nul­li­fied Mercers­burg for the next 40 min­utes.

The Storm kicked on with 20 min­utes re­main­ing, their best chance on a ball over the top for Mor­gan, who worked a small break­away but was closed well by Kim.

Hill again turned de­fense into of­fense when Beck­ett was given too much space on the edge of the 18 on the right. The fresh­man rat­tled the cross­bar with his left-footed blast, which re­bounded to Lom­bard, who took a touch and fin­ished with his right for a 2-0 ad­van­tage with 14:30 to play.

Af­ter see­ing out the fi­nal 15 min­utes, Hill con­tin­ued its chase for a fourth PAISAA cham­pi­onship (2013, 2014, 2016).

It is their sixth con­sec­u­tive ap­pear­ance in the fi­nal – ev­ery year the PAISAA has staged a tour­na­ment – and again served as proof of Hill’s tac­tic of tak­ing on the top prep schools in the re­gion early in the sea­son with long-range ben­e­fit in mind.

“That’s what I en­joy about coach­ing at a board­ing school,” Drowne said. “It takes a few weeks to fig­ure out who is go­ing to click next to one an­other be­cause they haven’t played with each other since first grade. They’ve played to­gether since the last week of Au­gust. That takes a lit­tle while. So I think that’s why you see a team like us peak a lit­tle later be­cause it takes some time. You get asked a lot of ques­tions when you play a St. Bene­dict’s or a Berk­shire, but those are ques­tions you get to sort out be­fore you get to this level. I thought those ex­pe­ri­ences showed up tonight.”

Now, Hill’s at­ten­tion can turn solely to re­claim­ing the PAISAA ti­tle af­ter last year’s 2-0 fi­nal de­feat to SCHA.

“We won it our sopho­more year and ob­vi­ously last year (2-0 loss), I think for us se­niors and all the kids on the team last year, we want re­demp­tion,” Sul­li­van said.

They know the en­ergy of play­ing for a tro­phy and are ready for it.

“The whole ex­pe­ri­ence of the bus ride there, un­der the lights, all the fans, the stakes, see­ing the tro­phy ... it’s a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery time and each time it gets more ex­cit­ing the older you get be­cause of the more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties you have (to the team),” For­rest said.

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Hale Lom­bard, left, Euan For­rest, sec­ond from left, and Ai­dan Sul­li­van (3) join the cel­e­bra­tion af­ter Hill de­feated Mercers­burg Academy 2-0 in a PAISAA semi­fi­nal Thurs­day.

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Mercers­burg’s Diego Mor­gan (7) tries to con­trol the ball as Hill School de­fend­ers, from left, Ai­dan Sul­li­van, Euan For­rest, Chance An­to­nio and Caleb Gerde­man look on.

AUSTIN HERT­ZOG - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Hill School’s Hale Lom­bard (11) fakes a shot as Mercers­burg’s Wil­liam Mor­gan tries to make a block.

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