PHOENIXVILLE >> Play a team four times in a matter of weeks, and the two sides become oh, so familiar with one another. It can happen in any sport.
It occurred in boys soccer this year as Pioneer Athletic Conference Frontier Division rivals Phoenixville and Upper Merion squared off for the fourth time this season Thursday night at Phoenixville’s Washington Field in the District 1 Class 3A quarterfinal round.
The host Phantoms spotted the Vikings a 1-0 halftime lead before rallying for a 2-1 victory with a pair of second-half goals by senior midfielders Jared Carboy and Kyle Tucker.
Tucker’s penalty kick, set up on a tackle of Greg Flamma inside the box with 1:03 left in regulation time, provided Phoenixville with its game-winning goal.
The PAC champion and third-seeded Phantoms (19-1-1) advanced to Monday’s semifinals, where they will visit second-seeded Bishop Shanahan in Downingtown at a time to be determined.
Bishop Shanahan ousted another PAC Frontier team, Pottsgrove, on Thursday. Upper Merion saw its season end with a 9-8-1 overall record.
The Vikings got their goal from sophomore Sam Tepe in the eighth minute of the contest.
While Phoenixville’s offense struggled to find the back of the net early, the Phantoms’ solid group of midfielders and defenders enabled the home team to hang tough and tight.
Upper Merion withstood numerous Phoenixville opportunities to score, highlighted by another stellar outing from senior goalkeeper Dylan Castillo, whom Phoenixville head coach Mike Cesarski considers the best goalie in the PAC. Castillo finished with 14 saves, many of them of the phenomenal variety on some difficult Phantom shots on goal.
“They (Vikings) are just very disciplined, which makes them difficult to play,” said Cesarski. “They are very well-coached (by Tom Dodds). It is especially difficult to break them down.”
Besides Castillo, Upper Merion defenders like seniors Yaseen Elarbi, Collin Ginsburg, Eric Moore and John Salamy made matters tough on the Phoenixville offense.
“It is disappointing,” said Dodds. “We had a couple calls that got them free kicks. That is the disappointing part. Every game has been the same. We are always right there. They have been very good games. They (Phantoms) are a very good team, very fast. They are a tough team to play.”
After winning the first meeting 1-0, Phoenixville’s victories over the Vikings the past three games have been 3-1, 2-1 in the PAC Final Four semifinals and now 2-1 again.
A Tucker corner kick set up Carboy’s tying goal in the 53rd minute. The goal came on a rebound after Castillo made an initial save.
“They’re a tough team,” said Tucker. “They defend really well, and they have some good players out there, especially number 11, (junior) Trevor Looby. Their goalkeeper (Castillo) made a ton of saves. It is tough to break them down.”
The Phantoms, though, remained confident that they would eventually score if they maintained possession and kept applying pressure, and they did.
Tucker credited senior midfielder Tyler Siefer with playing an exceptional game.
The Phantom defense came up big, too, with the likes of senior Danny Jackson, senior Blake Ericksen, senior Nick Sinapius, senior Sean O’Neill and sophomore Clay Kopko. Freshman goalie Gavin Perillo made four saves.
“Our team fought the whole 80 minutes,” said Cesarski. “They didn’t get down, and we had our chances. I would say 70 percent of the game was played in their end. Our back four are proficient, and our midfielders win the 50-50 balls and challenge. We put a lot of pressure on teams that frees our offense to score.”
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