Shootout ends Andes boys' season
By John Bernhardt
In a basketball game, the entire Laurens defensive line would have fouled out. In a hockey game, the Andes team would have played a man up for most of the game. But, in a Section IV soccer game, unless a foul is committed deep in the penalty area, a foul results in only a stopped ball. In a low-scoring sport, defensive walls, goalie play, and good defensive marking can provide daunting obstacles for offensive teams. Laurens rolled the dice by playing a fouling game with Andes’ high-scoring striker Peter Fabrykiewicz in a first-round playoff contest at Legion Field in Delhi on Thursday. The gambit paid dividends as the Leopards edged the Mountaineers in an overtime shootout.
Fabrykiewicz played the game with a target on his back. Almost every time the area’s leading scorer received the ball he was fouled. Often the foul was delivered before the Andes forward had the chance to dribble the ball forward. Often the foul sent Fabrykiewicz skidding across the turf.
As the fouls mounted, Laurens choked off a large percentage of potential Andes runs just over the midfield line allowing their defense time to settle into position on the defensive end of the field. The knockdown strategy was employed near the Andes goal, at least one time just inside the penalty box, and another much deeper toward the goal. Each time infractions were called, but the ball was pulled back behind the penalty area for the direct kicks. In fact, no matter where the pounding of Fabrykiewicz occurred calls were rendered, but Andes failed to capitalize.
The intense Laurens defensive pressure was not enough to shut out Fabrykiewicz entirely. The striker found the nets with just fewer than 27 minutes to play in the opening half. The scoring tally started when Eric Reed won a ball along the defensive right wing and volleyed a pass toward midfield finding James Litaker. Litaker lofted a high cross towards the goal in the center of the field toward Fabrykiewicz. The Andes striker grounded a hard shot from left to right past a stretching Jesse Tilley for Andes’ only score in regulation time.
Four minutes later, Laurens cracked the Andes defense for the first time, and Justin West sent a sizzling blast at the goal. But, Nathan Tuch, filling in admirably for the injured Josh Bonifacic, made a tough save to preserve the Andes lead.
With 15 minutes to play in the half, it looked like Fabrykiewicz had found the nets again. The Andes striker was knocked down just outside the box in the right corner with a direct kick as a result. Eric Reed chipped a volley finding Fabrykiewicz. With his back to the goal and two men on his inside hip, Fabrykiewicz swung around his left foot and lifted a high shot toward the goal. The tall Laurens goalie, Tilley, stretched as high as his frame would allow, jumping and reaching high over his head to pull the ball down.
Laurens evened things up with just 3:51 to go in the half. Phoenix Howard stole a defender’s clear 25 yards in front of the midfield line, and with the Andes defenders scrambling to reposition themselves, Howard burst past the last line of defense to drive uncontested on Tuch. At point blank range, Howard drilled a shot from the right side into the left hand corner of the nets to even the game at 1-1.
The half ended with Andes taking twice as many shots on goal as their opponents, but the score remained locked at one goal apiece. Even more important was the fact that Laurens physical sweeper Nick Short was becoming more and more effective at neutralizing Fabrykiewicz.
With 26 minutes to play, Andes came dangerously close to earning their second score. Corey Barrett pounded a hard shot at Tilley that the Laurens goalie managed to slap away with both hands. The ball skipped to the left hand side of the goal where sophomore Eddie Mackay hit it in full stride, sending a bullet that deflected off the cross bar and skidded across the front of the goal. Fabrykiewicz ran the ball down toward the right corner where he was flattened. But, the Mountaineers failed to capitalize.
As the minutes wore off the clock, Laurens began to assert themselves more offensively. A deep bench gave the Leopards staying power that Andes, with only one substitute, found hard to match. The situation darkened even more when Andes gifted midfielder, Corey Barrett, was felled at midfield and came up injured. Barrett left the game for over 10 critical minutes late in the second half.
Even so, Andes mounted two more serious scoring attempts in regulation. The first came as the result of a slick passing sequence from Fabrykiewicz and Reed. After settling a pass on the defensive side of the midfield line, Fabrykiewicz hit Reed on the fly down the left sideline. One touch passes flew from Reed back to Fabrykiewicz three times with Reed’s last return pass pushed almost to the middle of the penalty area. From there it was a footrace, a footrace that Tilley won as the Laurens goalie and Fabrykiewicz tangled in a heap in front of the goal, with Tilley hanging tight to complete the save.
In the overtimes, Andes ran on fumes alone. Although Andes out shot their opponents during the extra frames, it was Laurens who would have the better scoring chances. A blistering Laurens rocket less than three minutes into the first overtime skidded across the crossbar, and at least three promising scoring volleys sailed wide to the left of the goal. Yet, when the horn sounded after the second 10-minute frame, the score was still deadlocked at 1-1.
The final outcome would be decided through a shootout. Andes went first with Fabrykiewicz delivering a spinning shot to the right, off the goalie and into the nets for a score. Laurens answered when their first striker pushed a shot to the left of Tuch and into the nets. Eric Reed countered, sending Andes’ second strike skidding across the ground into the left corner giving the Mountaineer’s back their one-goal advantage.
The momentum shifted to Laurens on their next volley. Most fans watching the marathon encounter believed that Tuch made the first save of the shootout. Tuch stretched parallel to the ground to his right, batting the ball and then kicking it from his back as it rolled across the goal face. As the Andes fans danced in celebration, few realized the official had allowed the goal, ruling Tuch had stepped on the dividing line sometime during his save sequence.
Andes missed the next attempt and Laurens scored giving the Leopards a one-goal lead. After Andes failed to convert their fourth shot attempt, Laurens struck one last time to finally end the classic affair.
The loss ended Andes’ most successful season in more than a decade. The Mountaineers finished at 10-3-1.