November 4, 2010
Lions knock off No. 1 seed to reach Class D title game
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Cincinnatus’ Shondel Wright (10) chests the ball against Poland’s Matt Sypolt (28) in the second half of Wednesday’s Class D soccer semifinal at Syracuse CBA. Cincy knocked off the top seeds, 3-2.
SYRACUSE — As the horn sounded Wednesday evening to end the Cincinnatus Central boys’ soccer team’s 3-2 Section 3 Class D semifinal victory over top-seeded Poland, two distinct scenes played out on the turf of Christian Brother Academy’s Frank Cappelletti Field at Alibrandi Stadium.
The white-clad Tornadoes, who suffered their first loss of the season after 16 wins and a tie, stood, sat, or laid on the turf in disappointment and disbelief.
The red-clad fourth-seeded Red Lions, meanwhile, celebrated in a cluster near midfield, their belief in themselves justified.
“We just had to play our game, play our best,” said senior striker Jake Stone, who scored all three Cincy goals to propel his team into the finals against No. 2 Hamilton, a 2-0 winner over third-seeded McGraw in the other semifinal (see related story), the site, date and time not determined at press time. “We knew we could beat them if we played really well.”
“We’d been down before, and the kids just fought and fought,” Red Lions coach Leigh Wright said, his team in the finals for the first time since 1998. “We knew we could beat them. Everyone believed it. We just didn’t quit.”
Cincy, which led 1-0 at halftime after Stone found the lower right corner from about 15 yards out just short of the midway point in the half, assisted by senior fullback Jacob Manley, found itself behind 2-1 after senior forward Matt Sybolt put Poland up with goals 6:27 in and with 17 minutes showing on the clock. With momentum clearly against them, the Red Lions then roared back. Shondel Wright fed Stone for the tying goal with 12:34 left, again from 15 yards out, as well as the game-winner with 6:08 left, on a long throw-in from 30 yards out on the right sideline that Stone headed high to the left of Tornadoes goalkeeper Tate Coe.
“Once we got the lead we felt that they might press up and give us a chance to get another goal and put it away,” Poland coach Greg Haver said quietly as his team gathered up its equipment for the last time this fall. “Both of those last two goals came on great shots. We had (Stone) marked well.
“This is only the second game we’ve been behind in all season. I didn’t think we played very well in the first half, and credit goes to them for at least part of that. They were quicker to the ball than we were. We did a better job of beating them down the field in the second half, but still had a few breakdowns,” he added.
“I told them at halftime that we couldn’t be content with a one-goal lead,” said Wright, whose team improved to 16-1-2. “We had to continue to attack, and we wanted to try more long-ball stuff because with our skill and speed we felt that they didn’t match up well enough with us.”
Poland had a number of chances in the first half prior to Stone’s first tally, Manley finding him in the middle of the field after in turn taking a pass from sophomore halfback Jesse Consternation. Cincy then took over the game, though freshman goalie Shea Feehan did make a nice save on a low shot from a scramble in front of the Cincy goal with 12:15 left until halftime.
The Tornadoes came out strong in the second half, Darrow narrowly missing on a header 1:30 in. The Red Lions then just missed connecting as a crossing pass went just past Constantino on an attempted header. Sybolt’s tying goal came off a direct kick from 35 yards out by senior defender Matt Borner, senior defender Zach Darrow heading the ball and Sybolt nudging it in from close range at 33:33.
Sybolt gave his team its only lead with exactly 17 minutes left, finding the lower right corner after getting himself open and taking a pass from sophomore defender Nate Casper.
As Haver predicted, Cincy then pushed forward, and after a couple of good chances it paid off when Stone took a pass from Shondel Wright (after a pass to him from junior fullback Joe Peri), turned and scored high to the right side of the net from 15 yards out to make it 2-2.
Feehan made a good save on a low header from close range with 7:35 left before Cincy had a couple of good chances with just under seven minutes left, Coe punching out a dangerous ball with 6:40 left. The Red Lions stayed on the attack after that, and Shondel Wright lofted a throw-in from the ride sideline right in front of the Poland net, Stone there to head it into the upper right corner, out of Coe’s reach.
“I knew there was a guy behind me.” Stone said of the game-tying goal. “I turned to get some room, had an open shot and took it. Then Shondel made the long throw-in and I headed it, hoping to score or get it to someone inside. After I sot it I just looked back, hoping.”
After that it was Poland’s turn to press, and a couple of minor chances went by the boards as the Cincy defense held on.
The winners ended up with a 16-14 shot advantage in the contest, Feehan called on to make 10 saves for Coe’s four. “Shea has come a long way this year,” Leigh Wright said. “He made two saves in our shootout win over (Class C finalist) Cooperstown in the finals of the Sauquoit Tournament (Oct. 25), and his confidence grew by leaps and bounds. he did a great job tonight.
“Sauquoit’s turf is very similar to the field here, and that also worked in our favor with our speed. The ball runs true.”
The Red Lions lost to Poland 1-0 in last year’s D semifinals, and relished the revenge. “We wanted to go farther than we did last year, and it’s nice to beat the team that ended our season then,” Stone said.
“Absolutely,” Leigh Wright said with a smile when asked whether the circumstances made the win sweeter.
“And now we have a chance to beat the only team that’s beaten us this season,” he added, Hamilton a 1-0 winner in the finals of its own Optimists Tournament back on Sept. 11. “We’re better now, after moving some people around, and I’m not convinced Hamilton is much better than they were. I’m definitely confident, though we’ll have to play our best.”
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