DOWNINGTOWN – For the second seeded team in the District 1 Class 3A Boys’ Soccer Tournament, Thursday’s pregame optics didn’t look very good for Bishop Shanahan.
The Eagles were matched up against a quality opponent, No. 7 Pottsgrove, which beat them during the regular season. And Shanahan was not only without its head coach, Jim Kalavik, but also without three starters who were being disciplined for missing practice.
But looks can be deceiving. Thanks to the offensive prowess of star senior Harrison Coron, as well as a rock-solid defensive effort, the Eagles still managed to power past the visiting Falcons, 3-0, and advance to the semifinals.
“Any win in the district playoffs is a big win,” said acting head coach Mike Melesky, who was filling in for Kalavik, who was out of town on a job-related trip. “We expected Pottsgrove’s best game and they gave us a heck of an effort.”
Now 16-3 overall, Shanahan will host the winner (3) Phoenixville-(6) Upper Merion winner on Monday.
“It really shows our depth,” Coron said. “Even though three starters weren’t out there, we can replace them with guys who can step up to the table and get the job done.”
Pottsgrove’s season ends with an 8-10-1 mark.
“We didn’t play our best the first time (in a 2-1 loss at Pottsgrove in early September), so it was very important for our boys to come out focused,” Melesky said.
“We didn’t play well against them last time – especially me – so we were out for blood and ready to be motivated and intense,” added senior defender Mike Gingrich.
Minus three regulars – including seniors Matt Ziegler and Aiden Bracken – the Eagles struggled early, and would have gone into the halftime break in a scoreless tie if not for a penalty kick opportunity in the final minute of the first half. Senior Jake Frank made it count by finding the top right corner of the net.
“We are a little young, so maybe it helped our confidence knowing that we belong on the field with (Bishop Shanahan) because we beat them earlier,” pointed out Pottsgrove head coach Jay Witkowski.
“But giving up that goal right before the end of the half really hurt us. If we could have got to the half at 0-0, I think it would have helped our confidence even more.”
The story in the second half was Coron, who started to dominate the action. Midway through the half he took a pass from teammate Gavin Domsohn and made it 2-0. And then about 12 minutes later, he made it 3-0 on a similar play, this time off a pass from Alex Frank.
“On the first one I made a run behind the defenders and (Domsohn) hit a beautiful pass over the defender and finished it,” Coron said. “The second one I let the pass bounce one time and then half-volleyed it in.”
Falcons’ goaltender, Ryan Long, turned aside 11 shots, including a spectacular diving one-handed save on a second half blast from Connor Bailey.
“Ryan’s kept us in games all season,” Witkowski said. “He’s a senior and it’s going to be tough to lose him.”
In all, the Eagles had a 14-5 edge in shots on goal, and Gingrich and Shanahan’s goalkeeper, Austin Coron, helped register the shutout.
“(Pottsgrove’s) plan was to sit back, absorb the pressure and then counterattack,” Melesky explained. “But we have some outstanding center backs, and they do a nice job of controlling the middle of the field.
“(Gingrich) is an outstanding athlete, he brings the effort, he is smart and he can anticipate what attackers want to do before they even know.”
Pottsgrove also had a solid defensive plan: to shadow Harrison Coron wherever he went with one defender.
“(Pottsgrove) tried to man-mark him the whole game and double him every time he touched the ball. But Harrison is an outstanding player, and anybody who scouts us knows that,” Melesky said.
“We had a guy on him, and he did a good job, but (Coron) is everywhere,” Witkowski added. “He grinds it out and he wore us down. You’ll notice that in the first half we didn’t see a lot of him, but then in the second half, when he gets loose, he’s fast.”
The Eagles, who finished in a tie for first place in the Ches-Mont league but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to West Chester Henderson, is now two wins away from a district crown.
“Our number one goal is to win districts, but we’ve already accomplished so much that no other Shanahan boys’ soccer team has,” Gingrich said. “We are happy with the season, but we want more.”
Bishop Shanahan 3, Pottsgrove 0
Pottsgrove 0 0 – 0
B. Shanahan 1 2 – 3
B. Shanahan goals: J. Frank, H. Coron 2.
Goalie saves: Long (P) 11; A. Coron (BS) 5.
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