For a while during West Holmes’ Div. II boys soccer game at River View High school, it looked appeared as though the Knights, owner of a 1-13-1 record on the season, were going to pull off their second straight victory of the campaign.
Unfortunately, John Glenn had other ideas, and when a couple of tough calls went against the Knights, they never recovered and fell by a 3-1 count, ending their season.
And it doesn’t matter whether a team wins 15 soccer games in a season, or one as the Knights did this year, that final loss always comes as a bitter pill to swallow.
What made this game different than any other this season for West Holmes was that they came out of the gate and took a 1-0 lead just 30 seconds into the contest when Knights sophomore Alec Martin smoked home a shot to give them an early boost.
“We score 30 seconds into the game, and you start thinking that maybe this game is a little easier than it really is,” said West Holmes coach Nic Fioritto. “Maybe that early goal kind of played against us, I don’t know.”
Not that Fioritto and the Knights would turn that goal down. In fact, Fioritto had scouted the Muskies and after seeing them play a couple of times, felt that his squad could get an early jump on a team that seemed to start notoriously slow in games.
“We wanted to get out in front early,” said Fioritto. “They are a slow starting team, and we were able to capitalize early, and maybe we let that get to our heads.”
But it wasn’t as though the Knights stopped playing hard and creating opportunities the rest of the game. It was the exact opposite, as West Holmes continued to put pressure on the Muskies throughout the game. They simply couldn’t convert chances into goals on the night.
And if the 1-0 lead looked good, an apparent 2-0 edge would have really put john Glenn behind the eight ball. When Chase Campbell took a long pass and out-ran two Muskies defenders to the ball, and appeared to have a one-on-one attack on the goal, the referee blew his whistle and called Campbell for being offside.
What really made it tough on West Holmes was that with only two officials, that call was made from behind the play, and didn’t appear to be correct, the whistle coming well after the ball was initially kicked.
“I asked the official how far he was off, and he said about this far,” said Fioritto, using his index finger and thumb to signify about five inches. “We said after the game that this was not going to be a game about the officials making mistakes. We had our chances.”
Talk about your tough breaks.
But the Knights continued to play well, and kept putting on the pressure, even as the Muskies started to find their legs and attack.
The second tough call that went against West Holmes came with 9:25 to play in the first half, when Deric Roll was whistle for a fouled in the box, not from the official standing right in front of the play, but by the other official some 40 yards away.
That led to a penalty kick in which Knights keeper Logan Gallion guessed right, dove, and still couldn’t stop the perfectly placed shot of Ross Matthews.
West Holmes had a great chance to take the lead two minutes before the half, but a point blank shot from Blake McCune that had the Muskies keeper beat was deflected by a sliding muskies defender just before it could get into the net.
Tied at the half, John Glenn came out on fire to open things up in the second half, and had a pair of corners and direct kicks that failed to produce any results, thanks to Gallion’s play and shots that were sent soaring over the cross bar.
Then, with 33 minutes to play, Paul Van Horn and head coach Kyle Porter were yellow carded, and Nick Vaccariello’s direct kick flew just over the cross bar.
John Glenn took its first lead of the game with 26:15 left to play when Colton Devoll beat the Knights defense down the field and powered one by Gallion.
However, one minute later it appeared as though Vaccariello’s direct kick might have been muscled in by Andrew Rodhe, but the loose ball was turned away just before it crossed the line.
The two teams battled on, West Holmes keeping pressure on the Muskies, but then Matthews got behind the Knights defensive line and put away the clinching goal with just 11:13 to play.
West Holmes’ hopes were dashed.
“We talked about winning the games we were supposed to win, and this was one of those games,” said Fioritto. “I think they were disappointed with the results tonight, which they should be. We had our chances all night, and just kept hitting everything right to their keeper.”
The missed opportunities couple with the two tough calls that went against them pretty much summed up the fortunes of the Knights this year.
However, as he has stated throughout the year, Fioritto truly admires this group and again told them how much fun they were to coach.
“I’m proud of these boys because of the class and energy they exhibited,” said Fioritto. “They could have easily folded things in this year half way through but we kept playing hard.
“I think a lot of these young men did a lot of growing this season. It would have been easy to have negative attitudes all year, but they chose not to. They chose to keep working and trying their best.
“Those calls going against us is the story of our year, and it seemed like we were battling uphill the entire season. We couldn’t catch a break and that is the frustrating thing.’
Fioritto said that through all of the adversity his young team has the ability to use what they experienced this year and move onward and upward to better things. He told them after the game to remember how this felt, and to use that emotion when they work on their game for next season.
“I think we will be fun to watch and very competitive next season,” said Fioritto. “As for tonight, you have to tip your cap and give John Glenn a lot of credit. They played really hard.”