CONCORD >> Andrew Weir stood on the turf at Moe DeFrank Stadium Thursday afternoon, flabbergasted at what the scoreboard was telling him.
The board showed Weir’s Garnet Valley side on the wrong end of a 5-0 decision to Conestoga, a result that sold short how competitive the Jags were in a game against nationally-ranked opposition. For as even as they played in so many aspects, the Jaguars still found themselves run through by the unbeaten Pioneers.
“I don’t think the score really reflected the game,” Weir said. “I think we played pretty even with them. They capitalized on their chances when we didn’t.”
Call it the Conestoga effect. It takes too much effort to just tread water against a team so deep and so talented, only to see the Pioneers (13-0 , 8-0 Central League) effortlessly and ruthlessly finish half-chances and strangle the life out of a team’s resolve.
That should come as no surprise for a team that has ascended to No. 2 in USA Today’s (albeit specious) national rankings, one that has conceded a scant seven goals all season.
It’s said that in soccer, a sport where the individual’s impact is so easily outweighed by the collective, the weakest link rather than the strongest determines a team’s ability. For the Pioneers, that weak link, as compared to most teams in the Central League, is somewhere deep in the recesses of the JV team. And the waves of pressure generated by coach David Zimmerman’s 19-man rotation of regulars, usually subbed in doses of four or five, that deluge opponents illustrate that.
They got the early opener Thursday, Chris Donovan cashing in when Mason Miller pounced on a backline error in the third minute. But Garnet Valley (9-4, 6-2) stabilized the game, even pushed the issue and created quality chances.
Then in came the second platoon, which included Nino Mauro out wide and Teddy Pastva up top, and within a matter of minutes, the lead was doubled via the latter, decidedly against the run of play.
“Me and the two other middies, we just try to go in and pressure them until they’re worn out,” Pastva said, referring to Mauro and Matt Rossi. “That’s our job, just to go in, pressure them and wear them out, then get the next wave of guys to come in.”
The final tally gives Conestoga a slight edge in shots on target, 10-8, though Garnet Valley owned a more marked edge in total shots, thanks to a half dozen looks from distance bashed just over the bar or wide of the cage.
Jacob Schwien had arguably the best chance, 14 minutes into the second half in a 2-0 game, but his drive curled just over. Michael Buchy thudded a sneaky corner kick off the near post, the physical Matt Moore tested the Conestoga defense with several dangerous chances blazed wide, and Weir agonizingly watched a pair of efforts from outside the box fail to sneak under the crossbar. They forced five saves from goalie Luke Smith, including a sun-glare-aided bobble of a bombed free kick by David Cressman that nearly slithered through his gloves and in.
They weren’t merely potshots of a desperate side but sustained pressure that would’ve resulted in goals against a lesser side — as it has in the Jags’ first 12 games of the season before Thursday, their first shutout of the year.
“They came out hard, with Matt Moore,” Conestoga fullback Gabe Harms said. “They came out with a lot of pressure.”
“I think they play good soccer, and that forces the other team to play good soccer, too, or you’re not going to be able to do anything,” Weir said. “Hopefully we can learn from what just happened today and try to go forward.”
Pastva scored twice, his 59th-minute tally effectively breaking the Jaguars’ back, taking on two defenders and clipping a shot off goalie Tyler Tracy that caught the inside of the post and trickled in, Mauro getting the assist.
Logan Schwartz added a goal 10 minutes later, turning a pair of defenders inside and out, then Rossi volleyed a shot into the side-netting as the horn sounded at the end of the game.
Conestoga presents an important measuring stick for Garnet Valley, in an impressive season that has slumped to a three-game skid. With just one league loss coming in, having fallen to fellow title contender Lower Merion, Thursday presented a chance for the Jags to eke back into the title picture.
Instead, it’s a lesson of what needs to be fixed going forward.
“We were looking to get any result against this team,” Weir said. “We knew this team was going to be good, but we wanted to come out and play them straight up. … It’s frustrating.”
Also in the Central League:
Penncrest 3, Radnor 2 >> Alex Boudazin scored the game-winner in double overtime off Christian Evans’ second assist of the game for the Lions.
Jared Lucidi scored twice for the Lions (9-3-1, 5-2-1), while Pat Hughes made 13 saves.
Jack Miller scored Radnor’s opener and set up Cal Congleton for the second goal.
Haverford 5, Strath Haven 1 >> Cameron Morse recorded a hat trick as the Fords blitzed the Panthers.
Upper Darby 3, Harriton 1 >> Oshane Higgins scored twice and Mohamed Camara finished off the victory with two minutes to play. Danny Lista made eight saves in net for the Royals.
In the Bicentennial League:
Delco Christian 3, Calvary Christian 0 >> Dante Felice tallied a first-half hat trick, the final installment assisted by Cody Moorhatch, and Brody Veleber made 10 saves for the Knights.
In the Ches-Mont League:
Sun Valley 0, W.C. Henderson 0 >> Brendan Skwirut made 19 saves behind the defense of Jake McDonald, Jake Benz, Adam Revak and Ian Roland for the Vanguards (1-10-1, 1-6-1).
In the Del Val League:
Penn Wood 9, Glen Mills 0 >> Andrew Nmah and James Mnah scored twice each and Abdulia Barrie accounted for a goal and an assist as the Patriots (7-3, 6-0) rolled.
In the Inter-Ac League:
Germantown Academy 3, Haverford School 2 >> A goal by Evan Scott, an own goal and three Will Baltrus saves kept the Fords (3-6-2, 0-2-1) close, but they ultimately fell.
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