HAMBURG >> The lament of missed opportunity. It gnaws at you.
The Daniel Boone boys’ soccer team is feeling that pretty heavily right now. The Blazers saw their PIAA run, and season, come to an end Saturday afternoon in Hamburg with a 2-0 loss to Northwestern Lehigh in the 3A quarterfinals.
It didn’t have to — perhaps shouldn’t have been — this way. The Blazers (15-9) came out bright, aggressive, creative and had the Tigers on their heels for the opening 40 minutes. Unfortunately for Boone, the club could not find a finishing touch that would have firmly established control of the contest.
“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t put those early opportunities away,” Boone head coach Matt Kade said. “We’ve had some games at the opposite end of the spectrum that I thought the other team carried. That’s just soccer. And I told the guys, unless you win the whole thing, you’re going to feel this way.”
All it takes is one break the other way.
That came 6:16 into the second half, when Northwestern Lehigh’s Dominic Mertz converged on a ball sent defensively into the box that bounced high on Boone goalie Stephen Williams as he attempted to shield his eyes from the sun, which was directly in his line of sight. Mertz flicked a header over Williams, who got just a nick on the ball, but not strong enough to deflect its trajectory. The ball settled into upper near corner of the net.
“Too much ball-watching there in the back, too indecisive of movements,” Kade said. “If you’re not sure your keeper is going to get to the ball, just put it out of bounds. Anything to keep it out of the net.”
Lacking possession and thus, creativity, just like that the Tigers instead suddenly found themselves up 1-0. It was all they would need. Space that was available to Boone in the first half evaporated. Linkup play was stuffed at or near the 18, forays into the box few after the opening marker. The Blazers could not find a way through down the stretch.
NWL later added insurance when Sam Seyfried corralled a ball at the edge of the box, shook off his man and chipped it past Williams from five yards out for the capper with 4:12 to go.
“They caught us on some counters, put some pressure on us, and I think that second goal doesn’t happen if we’re not pressing up trying to get the equalizer,” Kade said.
Boone’s Carter Ferguson just missed to the near post on a sharp delivery into the box in the 5th minute, followed moments later by Jamie Burns trickling an offering just wide.
Defensively, the Blazers held the tigers down to the point where NWL’s first shot on target was a weak header easily corralled by Williams, in the 15th minute.
Despite the hard-luck ending, Kade commended his charges for the campaign. “It was a great run we put together and nobody thought we could make it as far as we did,” he said. “So, I’m proud of them. I’m proud of everything they accomplished this year.”