Small victories add up for Garnet Valley

CONCORD — For just a brief moment, Alex Middleman saw opportunity.

The Garnet Valley defender had been fooled a few times by Abington’s Cameron Leach Thursday afternoon. But with just over two minutes left in their District One second-round collision and the Jaguars nursing a lead, Middleman saw a chance to prevent the slippery Leach from adding to his total of four goals.

“He spun right into me,’ Middleman said. “I saw the opportunity and I took advantage of it. (Joey) Granahan was doing an awesome job on him. He held him up, I was right there to try a poke to get the ball away from him.’

The execution of that little play by Middleman was one of many battles won by Garnet Valley, and stacked together, they summed to a 10-8 win for the top-seeded Jags.

Down the stretch, those discreet duels that represent the building blocks of a victory seemed to be claimed by the Jaguars (14-3) at every turn. Goalie Michael Bonaddio, who was solid when called upon, stopped a pair of point-blank shots by Leach on one possession, including a bouncer that seemed destined for the five-hole. The possession before Middleman’s strong check, Garnet Valley got some much-needed relief when Andrew Tourtilis tip-toed up the sidelines under heavy harassment for a clear.

More emphatic was when Matt Moore, who paced the offense with two goals and an assist, stripped an Abington player trying to escape his zone, picked up the ground ball and incurred a trip and a crosscheck that put the No. 16 Ghosts (14-6) down two men for a minute with just under 90 seconds to play, effectively curtailing their comeback attempt.

The attention to the little details in crunch time typified why the Jags are the district’s top seed, moving on to Saturday’s quarterfinals to play for a states berth at Harriton.

Offensively, the division of labor was characteristically democratic. Jacob Buttermore and Denny Nealon tallied twice each in the first quarter to give Garnet Valley a 4-1 lead it wouldn’t relinquish. They then passed the offensive baton to Evan Trizonis (goal and assist) and Moore, who resisted the urge to force the issue when Abington defender Ryan Fetzer effectively blanketed him for stretches.

Having to deviate from such a central option as Moore didn’t cause any panic for Garnet Valley, though.

“We feed off each other’s energy, especially toward the later quarters,’ said midfielder Dylan Lee, whose goal at 6:13 of the fourth made the lead an unusually comfortable 10-7. “We see who’s got the matchups and if it’s not working, for somebody else. The key to our team is we have depth, and if something’s not working for someone, we go to someone else and they can take it to the goal and score.’

The tightness of Thursday’s affair may have been a surprise according to the seeds. But Garnet Valley barely scraped by with a 14-13 win over the Ghosts last week, and neither team expected this meeting to be much different. While the Jaguars never trailed, their lead also never grew to larger than three goals.

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