Will Smith stands tall in net for Conestoga in win over Emmaus

Will Smith has stood tall between the posts for the Conestoga boys’ soccer team all season long, and Wednesday night on Andre Reed field at J. Birney Crum Stadium in Allentown was no different in the opening game of the PIAA Class AAA state playoffs against District 11 champion Emmaus.

With 13:20 remaining in the first half and Emmaus leading goal scorer John Fritz streaking in on a breakaway, Smith forced his opponent to make a decision and came up with his biggest save to date to keep the game scoreless.

“I read where he was shooting and he happened to hit it there,” said Smith following the game.

“It was huge,” said sophomore Nick Jennings. “It kept us tied going towards halftime. “We have been a second half team all year and that save gave us a huge lift.”

Smith came up big again when the two teams went to a shootout to decide the match. With his team leading 2-1 in the shootout, Smith came up with the big save on Stephen Groh, who had netted a penalty kick in the second half.

As the teams went back and fourth, Smith forced Emmaus’ final two shooters to shoot high and send Conestoga into the quarterfinals with the shootout win 6-5 (1-1 in regulation).

With the win, Conestoga will play West Chester Henderson, who defeated Lower Dauphin, at Souderton High School on Saturday afternoon at 1 pm.

“What can I say about Will,” said Conestoga coach Dave Zimmerman following the game. “He is our senior captain, our rock. It makes me feel comfortable when I look down towards our goal and see him. He seems to play his biggest soccer in the playoffs and tonight was no different.”

“It means a lot,” Smith said referring to the compliments paid to him from his defense. “Just for the record I have complete faith in my defense. The compliment coming from them means a lot.”

Just minutes after halftime, Evan Gibbs struck a beautiful ball that Blaise Milanek ran underneath and collected as he raced toward the end line. As Milanek turned towards the net, he spotted Chris Donovan who one-timed the ball past keeper Dylan Sosnow.

Six minutes later Emmaus tied the score on a penalty kick that would set up the drama in penalty kicks.

In penalty kicks, Conestoga received a huge lift when Nick Rechtine and Jennings connected in key spots before Smith provided a key stop and then forced the final two Emmaus kickers to shoot over the net helping the Pioneers survive and advance.


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