ABINGTON >> Jack Failing wasn’t thinking wonder goal when he struck the ball early in the first half Tuesday night.
As he tracked the ball’s flight, the Abington senior wasn’t even thinking goal at first. But his effort took a late bend, pinged the top of the woodwork at the upper 90 and went in. It was the highlight goal, but far from the only one as the No. 4 Ghosts dueled with No. 9 Unionville.
Abington withstood a furious finish, outlasting the Indians 3-2 in their District 1-4A boys soccer semifinal to secure a trip to Saturday’s district final.
“The ball popped out and I saw the goal in the corner of my eye, so I took a touch and volleyed it,” Failing said. “I was honestly surprised, I thought it was going to go a little wide, but I got the bounce off the post and it went in.”
Coming into the match, both sides had been downright stingy defensively, so naturally the 80 minutes played out as a high-scoring thriller. Abington had posted 14 clean sheets and hadn’t allowed a goal in the postseason while Unionville had given up just 10 goals all season and only one in the playoffs.
Abington (20-1-0) has thrived as a first-half aggressor in its first two playoff games and Tuesday did little to change that script. An early attack led to a corner kick, which Nevin Baer put right in the box where defender Liam Campbell knocked it home for a second minute goal.
“It comes from the pressure we put on people right from the beginning,” Abington coach Randy Garber said. “For instance, tonight, they had a long trip so we said we had to put high pressure on them and see if we could pinch an early one. No one likes to play in pressure and when you pressure players, sometimes they do things they normally wouldn’t do.”
Failing’s golazo came 12 minutes into the game, a flash of absolute brilliance in a match that was only heating up. The senior midfielder uncorked a volley from about 25-30 yards out that looped up and into the upper right corner of the net.
The Ches-Mont American champion Indians recovered well from the opening tallies and settled into the match very well. A side that blends size, speed and possession well, when they were able to hold onto the ball, coach Rich Garber liked the way his players pressed up the field.
“We missed here and there, we had one right here at the end but that’s the game,” Rich Garber said. “It was good game and they have a good team. We got a little more confident offensively as things went on. We switched some things around and tried to get a little more forward.”
Abington went into the half up 2-0, but it felt like Unionville was right in the match and seemingly needed just one more chance to flip the script.
One thing the Indians really excelled at was drawing fouls and setting up set pieces, whether they be corners or free kicks, in dangerous areas. They got one of those a couple minutes into the second half with Garrett Pinkston’s free kick in leading to a shot stopped by Ghosts keeper Alex Haycock.
The rebound didn’t get very far, as Michael Hewes kicked in from about a yard out to slice the Abington lead in half.
“I told the guys do it one at a time and let’s see how we work ourselves back into it,” Rich Garber said. “We made a couple changes, talked about how we wanted to attack them and for the most part, did a pretty good job of doing it. A couple breaks here or there, but it’s soccer and I told them at the end we still have a way to go.”
Unionville was back in the match, but the Ghosts didn’t seem too rattled. Abington’s back line was active all game, but led by a standout effort from Nate Rose, the unit – also featuring Reese Gibbs, Vince Carosella and Campbell – held its ground.
As Abington settled the game back down, senior Sean Touey put together one of his trademark scoring runs. Turning with the ball at his feet, the forward powered through a Unionville double team and slotted the ball home for a 3-1 edge with 29:21 to go.
The chances continued to flow both ways after Touey’s goal. He had a couple attempts stuffed while Unionville continued to find moments of connectivity and generate set pieces.
Finally, with 6:07 left in the game, the Indians broke through. Hewes hit a shot from the edge of the box Haycock didn’t make a play on, the ball struck the post and Kyle Ketterer swooped in for the rebound.
“I think it did get a little sloppy there,” Failing said. “We have to focus on finishing out these tough games, especially when they were fighting so hard at the end there.”
Randy Garber said he felt his team was a bit fortunate to get out of regulation with a lead but added it was a credit to his team’s veterans.
Unionville will play at Spring-Ford in the third-place game Friday. Abington will face No. 6 Central Bucks West in the District 1 final, which is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Upper Merion.
“You look at your personnel and see if that personnel has a style that you want to play,” Garber said. “It’s no secret the style we play; we played direct tonight and put defenses on their heels. We’ve scored a lot of goals this year and have people who can score.”
ABINGTON 3, UNIONVILLE 2
UNIONVILLE 0 2 – 2
ABINGTON 2 1 – 3
Goals: A – Liam Campbell (Nevin Baer), Jack Failing, Sean Touey; U – Michael Hewes, Kyle Ketterer.