Mustangs, Warriors settle for draw in UEC/Classic match
CLICK HERE FOR METEA VALLEY'S TEAM PAGE
By Steve Nemeth
Maybe one of the reasons it seemed like Thursday’s contest between Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley was doubly hard-fought was because the outcome counted double.
The 1-1 draw is now part of the calculus-like formula needed to figure out who could win the 14th Annual Warrior Classic.
With three points for a win, one point for a tie, one point for a shutout (of which there have been none), and one point for each goal scored up to four --- the champion of the three-day, six-school event won’t be known until all the results are in on Saturday.
Add a 3-0 shutout (i.e., seven points) to anybody other than two-match loser Hinsdale South, and there’s a scenario still plausible for five teams to earn a trophy.
Tournament mathematics aside, the 1-1 deadlock also served as the official Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division meeting between the two programs and became the second tie for each when it comes to league play.
The Warriors (7-6-3, 1-2-2) and Metea (5-5-4, 0-3-2) both have one more divisional contest to play.
Over the course of the opening 22 minutes, Waubonsie had at least three near-goal attacks with each ending up sailing over the crossbar to the relief of Mustang starting goalie Derek Carothers.
With just under three minutes left before intermission, Metea’s Zachary Bavol had a try glance off the crossbar. The scoreless halftime deadlock remained after a few more interesting second-half efforts.
At 49:46, Waubonsie’s Evan Cudone had a rocket of a header saved by the Mustangs’ second-half keeper, Gabe Gongora. Ten minutes later, it was Warrior netminder Jordan Ward making consecutive saves.
But the scoreboard had a zero replaced on the home side with 18:40 remaining as Warrior reserve Noah Griffith blasted a 17-yarder from right of center with teammate John Cordes serving as bumper of sorts in helping the ball carom away from Gongora.
“When you get an opportunity, and sometimes you only get one, you just drive the ball,” Griffith explained. “When the ball came to me, I saw the left corner open and tried to place it there. There was a big scrum in the middle and Cordes was also in there and it deflected off him.”
Offensive chances began to multiply with the Warriors pushing for a two-goal cushion while Metea was trying to produce an equalizer. The Mustangs were the ones to succeed with 6:55 left to be played.
Joel Schmidt ripped a shot from the right wing that caromed down off the crossbar and an on-rushing Nate Donovan was able to head home a four-yarder.
“Joel had a great shot and I was lucky enough to put the rebound in,” Donovan said in regard to his fourth goal of the year. “I was just hoping he (Ward) might drop it if he did get to it. A tie is better than a loss, but we’ve got to keep our heads in games, especially late and not give up goals.”
As much as Metea coach Josh Robinson would agree to Donovan’s statement about not giving up goals, the outcome was still somewhat of a relief.
“Anything but a loss is probably a good thing this time of the year since we’re building toward the playoffs,” Robinson noted. “Opponents have been focusing on Ryan (Solomon) a lot, so someone else has to step up if he struggles. We were happy to see someone else get a goal because we know Ryan can still be an impact player even without scoring goals.
“We’ve had good work ethic out of several players, but tonight I thought Brett (Erwin) and his brother Blake, both did a good job defending (Waubonsie’s Tyler) Yanisch. He’s the kind of player who will have success, but the more you limit his opportunities the better,” Robinson added.
From the opposite coaching box, Waubonsie veteran Angelo DiBernardo would have preferred another goal or two for his side.
“It was a tight game, neither team really created a lot; it was more of a midfield struggle from box to box,” DiBernardo said. “Overall, I thought we created a few more chances than they did. We had a couple of real good looks at the goal, and we were able to finish one off.
"We like what (Griffith) has to offer, but he still has a ways to go, to learn, but he’s eager to play. Obviously he’s been scoring goals as of late, so he’s putting a lot more pressure on the other forwards,” DiBernardo continued. “So when playoffs come, we’ve got to go with the hot foot and that could be Noah.”
From the defensive half, Jack Cicchini likes the way the Warriors are coming on.
“Defensively we’ve looked pretty solid the last 10 matches (6-1-3), with just one loss to a very good East Aurora team and again, communication has been a key. Myself and Jordan try to keep things organized and get everyone in the right places,” Cicchini said.
“Communication is big from the back because it also helps our forwards get where they need to be. We get them the ball, they’re capable of doing things offensively. Gytas (Savukynas), Sam (Bell), Tyler (Yanisch) all are very capable guys on attack.”
Similar to last season when Waubonsie struggled mightily in the early goings and then came on strong late in year, the Warriors have turned a 1-5-0 start into their current 7-6-3 mark by getting to know each other better according to Griffith.
“We’ve been playing better as a team lately. At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of incoming sophomores on this team and it just took a little while for everything to jell," Griffith said.