October 16, 2013
Purple Tigers hold off Homer
Visiting Trojans make it tougher on CHS 2nd time around
And now for something (almost) completely different.
The Cortland High and Homer Central boys’ soccer teams met for the second time this season Tuesday night at Moiseichik Field. The first contest between the two, at Butts Field in Homer, ended in a 7-0 Purple Tiger victory on Sept. 12. This time around, CHS again scored an OHSL Freedom National win, but this time by a razor-thin 2-1 score on its Senior Night.
“Give Homer credit,” Cortland coach Brian Rozewski said after his team had finished the regular season 7-3 in the league and 9-4-3 overall. “They came out and played a great game, 10 times better than the first one. They played a great physical game, and fought hard and strong.”
“Maturity and growth were the difference this time,” said Trojans coach Dave Shiffman, his team now 2-9 league, 5-10 overall and out of post-season contention. “We have a young team, with just two seniors and four players back from last year, and a lot of players had to get used to the speed and pace of the varsity level. Now they have. They love soccer and will play it all summer; looking ahead to next season is exciting.”
“That’s a young team that’s going to be very good,” Rozewski said of the Trojans.
The Purple Tigers were looking to win to get the best possible seeding for the upcoming Section 3 Class A tournament. They were coming off a 2-0 loss at Jamesville-DeWitt Saturday that may have cost them the division championship, J-D now 6-3-1 league after a 3-1 win at Chittenango Tuesday night. The Red Rams host Mexico, which is winless in the league, Friday and Chittenango Saturday, and wins in both games would earn them the crown outright.
Rozewski’s main concern going into the game, however, was personnel-related.
“THIS WAS OUR biggest game, and unfortunately we were missing our sweeper, (senior) Victor McCutcheon, after he got his fifth yellow card of the season against J-D. It made me very nervous not having him. You never know what’s going to happen in a Cortland-Homer game,” he said.
Rozewski’s nerves were calmed somewhat by the way play developed in the game, his team with an 18-5 shot advantage as Homer junior goalie Alex Djafari made 11 saves to four for CHS senior Tracey Shelley. The winners also had a territorial edge, especially in the first half.
Asked if he was worried that the Purple Tigers would start getting frustrated after so many close chances, Rozewski noted that “I wasn’t worried, because we were getting those chances. We were possessing and playing good soccer. I would have been worried if we weren’t getting chances.”
CHS finally got one by Djafari, who had an outstanding game, as junior forward Justin Prentice took a pass from senior midfielder Eamonn Mahar, came in on the right side and, as Djafari came out to meet him, lofted it over the keeper and into the far side of the net with 22:14 left in the first half. It was Prentice’s team-high 22nd goal of the season and the 19th assist for Mahar, the most in Section 3.
“I saw an opening, took the shot to the left and it went in,” Prentice said. “We were nervous because as it went on we thought that this game might be like some of our others this season, when we got up in the first half but the other team came back to win. But it’s always good to get a win against your rival.”
“It’s pretty easy to be the assists leader when you’ve got fast forwards,” Mahar said. “I get them the ball and they do the work.”
THE FIRST HALF ended with CHS clinging to the 1-0 lead. Two minutes into the second half, Homer junior center midfielder Anthony Levitskiy had to leave the game after head-to-head contact with a Cortland player and didn’t return.
“I’m not going to say that was the difference because we’re very balanced, but he’s a captain and one of our best players,” Shiffman said of Levitskiy.
Mahar hit the crossbar on a 35-yard direct kick from the right side four minutes into the half, but it wasn’t until 25:27 remained in the game that the Purple Tigers scored again. Junior forward Scott Schlenker took a pass from senior midfielder Kristian Reynolds and sent in a ball from deep on the right side that went over the goal line before a charging Prentice could get to it.
“I just tried to get the ball in the box to see what would happen and it went in,” Schlenker said of his sixth goal of the season.
The Trojans, led by Djafari with a couple of sparkling saves, stepped it up a bit after that, and it paid off with 20:30 left when senior forward Igor Sokolik took a pass from junior stopper Brad Sovocool, came down the middle and, pressured by two defenders, took a shot from 25 yards out that rolled into the right corner to make it a 2-1 game.
“I got past one defender, kicked it and it went off the goalie and in,” said Sokolik, who now has five goals on the season. “This was an important game for us, because we had to win to make the playoffs. We went full out, worked together and gave it all we’ve got.”
PRENTICE HIT THE crossbar with a shot from around 10 yards out on the near right wing with 16:20 left on the best scoring chance for either team down the stretch. Shelley had snagged a high direct kick from 34 yards out on the right side by Trojans junior sweeper Nate Ulrich just over two minutes before that and was helped out by Mahar when he headed away a Homer corner kick with 8:35 remaining. A late scramble in front of the Homer net almost resulted in a third Cortland goal before Djafari was able to control the ball.
In addition to the upperclassmen already mentioned, also honored along with their parents in halftime ceremonies on the Purple Tigers’ Senior Night were midfielder Brett Timmons and defenders Brian Litzenberger, Mike Thomas and Chris Engst-Mansilla.
Rozewski and his team will now await Sunday’s sectional seeding meeting to learn their post-season assignment, while Homer closes out its season by hosting Chittenango Thursday at Butts Field in a 7 p.m. start.
“We have to get up for Thursday, which is our Senior Night,” said Shiffman, with Sokolik and outside midfielder John Osterhoudt to be honored, along with their parents.
CORTLAND JVs concluded their season with a 4-2 win over Homer as Chris Dovi had a two goals and an assist and Ezra Engst-Mansilla two goals, Rushawn Roberts with two assists. Both of Homer’s goals were scored by Nikolai Grihin.
The game was tied 1-1 at halftime, Grihin opening the scoring five minutes in before Dovi equalized off a Roberts assist at the 12-minute mark. The Purple Tigers went up 3-1 as Engst-Mansilla scored one minute into the second half assisted by Dovi, who then notched his second of the game unassisted a minute later. Grihin’s goal narrowed the margin to 3-2 with 15 minutes left before Engst-Mansilla closed things out off a long ball by Roberts with 45 seconds remaining and the Trojans pushing up offensively.
Goalie Nick Smith made 15 saves for Cortland, which finished at 4-7-1 in the league and 4-10-1 overall. Homer, which had a 22-14 shot advantage, got nine saves from Lucian St. John and is now 4-6-1 league and 5-7-2 overall ahead of Thursday’s 5 p.m. season finale against Chittenango at Butts Field.
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