October 25, 2010
Olympians keep title
Nelson’s goal late in OT delivers IAC Small School crown
ITHACA — After capturing another league soccer title with some overtime flair, after breaking a post-game huddle with his players as rain drops descended upon Ithaca High School’s Moresco Stadium, Marathon Central coach Chip Stewart called out for the evening’s hero.
“Nellie, Nellie. Where’s Nellie?” Stewart shouted in search of Tyler Nelson, using that moniker to differentiate the sophomore from the other five players on his roster also named Tyler.
It was Nelson’s goal on a diving header with 1:33 left in the second overtime period that lifted the defending champion Olympians to a 1-0 victory over Spencer-Van Etten in Saturday night’s Interscholastic Athletic Conference Small School championship game.
“I didn’t know you could head the ball that low,” kidded the coach when the diminutive Nelson appeared. “Thank god you didn’t use your foot, it probably would have been over the top.”
The top of the IAC soccer world is where the Olympians seem to be every autumn, Nelson coming through just when NorthWest Division champion Marathon (10-4-1) and SouthEast Division first place finisher Spencer-VE (8-6) seemed on the verge of sharing the overall title.
With time running out in the second 10-minute extra session, some nifty and crisp short passes in the box led to freshman Cody Morrison sending a pass across the face of the S-VE goal. That gave the Nelson the chance to use his head to end the game with a point-blank putaway.
“We do crossing drills all the time in practice, so you’ve got to put that in,” said Nelson, who admitted heading a soccer ball is not his forte. “It’s not really, but when it’s right there you’ve got to put it in.”
Nelson’s sixth goal of the season enabled the Olympians to finally put away a pesky Spencer-VE squad.
“I tell you in the first half, man they took it to us. We were on our heals the whole first half,” said Stewart, SV-E’s speed of particular concern on the quick Moresco Stadium turf. But as the evening progressed, Marathon’s play certainly picked up.
“We were by-passing our midfield, just sending long ball after long ball, so we had to start getting a connecting pass in there. So we did that and turned the corner,” said Coach Stewart.
“They were playing a diamond (defense), essentially a three-flat back, but they were playing it at about the 20-yard line so every long ball we were sending was getting eaten up. We needed to somehow get something in the intermediate range and then we could run a diagonal someplace,” he added. “Now, did we do a lot with it once we got it there? Not really. But from the 18-to-18 in the second half and in overtime we were the better team in my mind.”
THE TOP SCORING threats on both sides, Marathon senior jitterbug Tyler Marsh and dangerous Spencer-VE forward Eddie Butler, tested both defenses in a scoreless first half. The night’s drama would not arrive until the second stanza, however.
The first anxious moment came some 10 minutes into the second half when Marathon goalie Evan Holl hustled well out of the box to take down S-VE’s Ryan Ward, earning the Olympian a yellow card and a spot on the sideline after interrupting that potential breakaway on the right sideline. And when back-up Robbie Peri was called off the Marathon bench to spend a few nervous minutes between the posts, the Olympians survived a perilous moment when Butler’s attempt to score on a direct kick just outside the top of the box sailed off target.
Holl returned soon after and was not called upon to make another save the rest of the way, thanks to a Marathon defense led by sweeper Teddy Morrison. Austin Fox’s work holding Butler in check was crucial, too.
The second anxious moment came 15 minutes left, when Marathon thought it had broken through when junior Erik McGowan blasted a shot in traffic and seemed eventually trickle into the right-hand corner of the net. It was ruled S-VE keeper Keith Nelson scrambled to keep the ball from completely crossing the goal-line beside the post.
“I still think the ball was in the net. We thought it hit the side netting, but who knows,” said Stewart.
So Marathon had to wait for almost all of overtime to celebrate, to mob Nelson after his game-winner.
“It means a lot,” said Nelson of keeping the crown in Marathon. “We work really hard. That’s a good team, but we came through in he end.”
“I feel sorry for them, having been there before,” said Stewart of Coach Matt Wigsten’s gritty S-VE squad. “You’re inside a couple of minutes, you’re almost co-champs and you think ‘What’s wrong with that’ because you’ve played so frigging hard.”
Marathon is the top seed for the Section 4 Class C tournament that starts this week, the Olympians to host the winner of the Tioga vs. Delhi first round contest on Friday at 3:30 p.m.
IN THE LARGE SCHOOL title game earlier in the day, Watkins Glen (14-1-1) topped Trumansburg (15-2) by a 3-0 margin.
The Senecas got goals from Austin Stephany, Ian Andersen and Chris Duane. Trumansburg was held scoreless despite an 11-10 shot edge, winning goalie Andrew Conklin with a handful of saves.
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