Stingy defense looks to be key for Conestoga

If the old adage is true that defense wins championships, then it looks like it will be a promising boys soccer season for Central League rivals Conestoga and Lower Merion.

On Sept. 5, the Aces and Pioneers hooked up in what ESPN would term as an Instant Classic with both teams having opportunities to score if not for big plays by the defense from both teams anchored by their respective keeper with Will Rosenbaum getting the job done for Lower Merion and Will Smith doing the same for Conestoga.

After going through 80 minutes of scoreless play, the Pioneers went on the attack midway though the first 10 minute overtime period and were fortunate to find the back of the net with 4:46 remaining to break the tie and earn a gut wrenching win over the defending Central League champions.

“This win gave us a big confidence boost,’ said junior center back Danny Leiser, following the contest. “LM is a very tough team and they were coming in following two big wins to open the season. For us to win this is key.’

Conestoga coach Dave Zimmerman added, “This win is a big step forward. To be embroiled in a in a tough battle against a tough team and come out on top is huge. We dropped our first game last week (against C.B. South) in overtime so to win in overtime is huge for our psyche.’

With the clock running down in the first overtime, Pedro Acosta drove down the left side and delivered a beautiful touch pass to Chris Ward who was able to flick the ball off his head over the outstretched arms of Rosenbaum for the win.

“When we were driving down the field I just run towards the box because I had confidence that Pedro (Acosta) would find me,’ Ward said. “I am actually better using my head than my feet. Once I saw the ball I went for it flicking the ball on goal hoping something would happen.’

The win evens Conestoga’s record at 1-1 (1-0 Central League) while Lower Merion falls to 2-1 (0-1 Central League) on the young season.

It’s never easy to replace a bulk of your senior leaden lineup that advanced to the PIAA Class AAAA state quarterfinals one year ago but it seems like the Pioneers coaching staff had some questions answered as they overcame a shaky first half due mostly to pre-game jitters and coming out on top against a perennial league power.

“The first half was tough because it looked as though we had some pre-game jitters,’ said Leiser. “However we were able to stay with it and pick up the win.’

Facing a challenging schedule the rest of the season, it always a comfort to see strong defense rise to the occasion in a sport where scoring can be at a premium. Leading the defense will be Leiser and Chris Chappelear at center back with Smith anchoring in goal.

“It gives me a great amount of confidence that the coaches believe in me but it also comes with a great amount of leadership and responsibility,’ said Leiser. “It’s a big role that I am excited to take on. We have a young team that has displayed leadership throughout the team.’

Zimmerman added, “Our defense was critical today. We do not have a go to guy for scoring so we are going to have to manufacture goals. Our defense will be a key ingredient in our success. Leiser has been critical for us. We have had some early season injuries so for Leiser to step up has been key.’

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