DOWNINGTOWN >> Fear can be a powerful motivator. And on Monday in a key Ches-Mont boys’ soccer clash between two prime contenders, visiting Unionville played with a bit more urgency and the end result was a 2-0 victory over Bishop Shanahan.
If the Indians (3-1, 5-1 overall) wanted to remain in contention, they couldn’t afford a second loss in league play. Scoreless at halftime, senior captain Eric Greer dished out a pair of second half assists to knock the Eagles (2-1, 5-2) from the ranks of the unbeaten in Ches-Mont play, leaving only Henderson unblemished at 3-0.
“We said before this game that if we want to be in the hunt for the league title, we have to win (Monday),” said Unionville head coach Rich Garber. “We can’t hiccup twice.”
A season-opening loss to Henderson put the Indians in a tough spot, but Garber’s crew responded with a defensive gem on Monday. Goaltender Garrett Pepper turned aside nine Shanahan shots to record the shutout.
“Getting this win was very important for us because we already have a loss. And we all know that (Shanahan) is a contender just like us,” Greer said.
“Our defense played great tonight,” Garber added. “We were probably the best organized we’ve been all season. I wish we could have been that organized a few weeks ago (against West Chester Henderson), but we are getting there.”
The Eagles got off to a sluggish start, and were unable to muster any sort of sustained attack until they trailed by a couple goals.
“We got beat by a team that is not as good as us – plain and simple – on our home field. We lost this game,” said Shanahan head coach Jim Kalavik.
The opening half was scoreless as both sides generated a few chances, but had trouble connecting on passes in the offensive zone. With the way both defenses were clamping down, set plays became even more impactful, so it was hardly a surprise when Unionville finally broke through about eight minutes into the second half off a corner kick.
“Set plays can make-or-break a game. It’s dangerous anytime you can put it in the box,” said Greer, who delivered the corner kick, which was volleyed in by senior Brendan Humes.
“(Greer) is playing a little out of position up front for us, but we really don’t have a true speedster,” Garber pointed out. “He’s out main guy up front.”
About four minutes later, Greer was at the center of the second goal. He drew a defender on a two-on-one, back-heeled a pass to junior Sam Price, who then one-timed it past goalie Austin Coron.
“Once we got the first goal, it relaxed us,” Garber said.
“Momentum switched with that first goal, and then we scored again,” agreed Greer. “Getting two goals in the first 10 minutes was huge.”
There was still 30 minutes to go, however. And, as expected, the Eagles didn’t go down without a fight. Midway through the second half, Pepper was forced to make a diving save on a blast by Shanahan’s Connor Bailey, and then had to immediately thwart Nicholas Krause at the near post on the rebound.
Moments later, the Eagles nearly ended the shutout when Harris Coron’s shot glanced off the crossbar.
“After the second goal, it woke (Shanahan) up,” Garber said. “They put a lot of pressure on you. And even when they were down two, I wasn’t comfortable and was trying everything I could to see it out.”
The win halted a two-game Shanahan win streak in the series dating back to 2015. Afterwards, Kalavik was disappointed with his team’s impatience.
“We just did not play our style of soccer,” he said. “We typically move the ball well, but when we get impatient and the goals aren’t coming like they normally do, we end up falling back and taking long shots, and that’s just not our style.
“We had a few opportunities we didn’t finish on, and this is what happens when you leave goals on the table.”
Garber, on the other hand, thought that it was his team’s best overall performance this season.
“I thought we played our best game of the year – and we had to in order to win.”
Unionville 2, Bishop Shanahan 0
Unionville 0 2 — 2
Shanahan 0 0 — 0
Unionville goals: Humes, Price.
Goalie saves: Pepper (U) 9; Coron (BS) 6.