Monday November 11, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
SAVE — Matt Petriccia helped St. Francis in goal, this season. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
Games were played so closely this season among the Monsignor Martin’s four large school soccer teams, that St. Francis head coach Mike Smolinski said it wasn’t a surprise that his third-seeded squad wound up playing fourth-seed St. Joe’s, during the final.
And, although the Red Raiders won all three games against St. Joe’s during the regular season, he figured the championship game would be a toss-up, as well, and it was. On the strength of a first half goal, St. Joe’s escaped with a 1 – 0 win in the MMAA final on Nov. 3 at Niagara University.
“We didn’t outshoot or outpossess St. Joe’s in any of the games, so we were fortunate to win all three,” said Smolinski, whose team won two of the three in overtime. “We didn’t go in considering ourselves the favorite. We played smart, but we just didn’t get the job done.”
The game was not without controversy, as Seth Snyder looked to have tied the score with 10 minutes left in the second half, off a corner kick deflected in front by a teammate, but the referee ruled it a hand ball.
“In the speed of the game, I can understand the call,” Smolinski said. “We didn’t get the call.” Also, Michael Dhiwayo, who scored once in St. Francis’ 2 – 0 semifinal win over Nichols, hit the crossbar, in the championship game.
It was the second straight season St. Francis lost in a final, but the Red Raiders had overcome four loses during the regular season to Nichols, to win the teams’ semifinal. Also in that game, senior captain Aaron Hayes added a second half insurance goal, assisted by Jacob Duggan.
“The guys dedicated a lot of time to the program and it was well appreciated,” Smolinski said. “In a league this tight, it’s not easy to get to the finals twice. It’s a real accomplishment.”
Smolinski also credited captains Sean Cook, Matt Unger and Hayes for helping take charge of the team as leaders. He said he is excited by the amount of talent the team brings back, including goalie Matthew Gabalski, who returned from suffering a concussion, to help the team in the playoffs, along with Snyder and defender Noah Zydel.