WOOD’S SEA­SON ENDS IN STATE SEMIS

Vik­ings squad falls short of goal

Times Chronicle & Public Spirit - - SPORTS - By An­drew Robin­son arobin­[email protected]­tu­ry­media.com @ADRobin­son3 on Twit­ter

The change in mo­men­tum came like a tidal wave.

Joe Bara­noski’s long ball into the box had just de­flected off a Strath Haven de­fender to put Arch­bishop Wood up two goals barely more than a minute into the sec­ond half of their PIAA 3A boys soc­cer semi­fi­nal Tues­day. It took less than 30 sec­onds for the Pan­thers to score in re­sponse.

Strath Haven ripped off three unan­swered goals and edged the Vik­ings 3-2 at West Ch­ester East on Tues­day, end­ing a spe­cial sea­son for the Vik­ings.

“It was a good sea­son, I had a lot of fun with all my friends, win­ning the PCL (ti­tle) is my fa­vorite thing that’s hap­pened in high school,” Wood stand­out for­ward Koty Tay­lor said. “It’s tough los­ing this way, but I’m proud of ev­ery­one on the team.”

The Dis­trict I cham­pion Pan­thers nearly scored in the first minute but af­ter a slug­gish start over the open­ing 10 min­utes, Wood found its game. Play­ing their trade­mark high-oc­tane style, the Vik­ings started to con­nect, move the ball and gen­er­ate chances.

They had a cou­ple go want­ing but kept press­ing the is­sue and fi­nally struck pay­dirt near the mid­way point of the first half. An ini­tial shot by a Wood player struck a Strath Haven de­fender on the line square in the ab­domen, deny­ing a goal but tee­ing up a re­bound that Ryan Mor­gan buried.

“I think in the first half we def­i­nitely should have had more than one goal,” Tay­lor, a first team al­lPCL pick, said. “But that’s just how it came out.”

Wood got a great jump to start the sec­ond half, with Shane Col­lier sup­ply­ing the ball to Bara­noski on the left side. The full­back played it in, a Pan­thers de­fender flicked it back­wards and Wood was up 2-0.

Then, the wave hit. Ni­cholas Palermo struck for the first of his two goals just 28 sec­onds later and all of the sud­den, the hel­terskel­ter Pan­thers were right back in the match.

“We made care­less mis­takes in the sec­ond half,” Wood al­lPCL mid­fielder Bobby Hennessey said. “With the ex­cep­tion of the first 10 min­utes in the sec­ond half

we came out fir­ing on all cylin­ders. The sec­ond half, they cap­i­tal­ized on a cou­ple mis­takes and we couldn’t do our job.”

Wood’s of­fense was like a bad re­flec­tion of it­self in the sec­ond half. The fluid play from the first half was gone, guys couldn’t link passes and the fi­nal third be­came a grave­yard for any crosses, long balls or at­tack­ers try­ing to drib­ble through the sea of black Pan­thers jer­seys.

It put the Vik­ings in a com­pli­cated spot. They might have been able to slow the Strath Haven mo­men­tum by slow­ing the game down, but it would have gone against ev­ery­thing Wood had thrived on all year.

“I guess that’s what we could have changed, slow­ing the pace of the game down and try­ing to change the mo­men­tum all year,” Hennessey said. “But we do play re­ally fast. They just got the best of us to­day.” Palemro pounced on a poor pass from the back and buried the equal­iz­ing goal with 25:58 left in the sec­ond half. The Pan­thers then went up af­ter Palermo drew a foul to grant them a free kick. Em­met Young sent a ter­rific ball into the box, where for­ward Nate Per­rins got up and flicked it into the back of the net a split sec­ond be­fore Wood keeper Con­nor Ford could punch the ball away.

“We didn’t win a lot of 50/50 balls, they came hard and ag­gres­sive and we did ev­ery­thing just too slow,” Wood coach Hugh Kelly said. “We didn’t find feet, we were ran­dom in our play. We cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties and chances the first half but the sec­ond half, not so much.”

It’s a tough end­ing for the se­nior-laden Vik­ings, but one they can take a lot of good from. Not only did the team reach the state semi­fi­nals for the sec­ond straight year, but it won the pro­gram’s first PCL ti­tle since the 2013 sea­son.

They played a good brand of soc­cer pred­i­cated on tempo and ball move­ment and they played for each other. The de­fense was ro­bust as well and all three phases of the field seemed to link right from the start of the sea­son.

“It was a great group, we’re se­nior heavy but when they came in as fresh­men I felt re­ally good and thought we had a lot of tal­ent,” Kelly said. “They worked re­ally hard the last two and a half year to try and get us where we’re at with the pro­gram, be­ing com­pet­i­tive not only in our own league but also our non­league sched­ule.”

Wood plays as tough a non­league sched­ule as any­one too and this group proved it could hold its own with any­body.

“It’s go­ing to be a fun story to tell when we’re older or even away in col­lege,” Tay­lor said. “It’s been a good ex­pe­ri­ence.”

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

La Salle’s Jake Craw­ford looks to pass near Wood’s Matt Mur­phy dur­ing re­cent ac­tion.

GENE WALSH — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

La Salle’s Pat McCart­ney drib­bles up field as Wood’s Matt Mur­phy de­fends ear­lier this sea­son.

AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/FOR DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Arch­bishop Wood cel­e­brates its PCL cham­pi­onship.

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