WORCESTER >> The Archbishop Wood boys soccer team is once again moving onto the PIAA Class 3A semifinals. And the Vikings are enjoying leaving the doubters behind them.
“We’re a very young team this year and a lot of people underestimated us,” Wood junior midfielder Shane Collier said. “Most teams underestimated us and did not expect us to go as far as we did. And especially there was a lot of trash talk going around, so we wanted to come out here and prove that we did deserve to be here.”
Ryan Morgan knocked a shot in off the far right post and into the net with 23:54 remaining in the second half to break a 1-1 tie with District 1 runner-up Holy Ghost Prep and the District 12 champs held on to reach the state tournament’s final four for the third straight season with a 2-1 quarterfinal victory over the Firebirds on a cold Saturday night at Methacton High School.
“I was speechless kind of, I didn’t know what to do,” said Morgan of his reaction after his goal. “I never know what to do but that felt so good knowing them and there’s a lot of texts between the two teams. I definitely wanted that game more than anyone else and so did my teammates and that showed at the end of the day.”
The Vikings, who knocked out Holy Ghost in the PIAA quarters for second consecutive year, advance to face District 1 champ Strath Haven — which topped District 4 champ Selinsgrove 3-0 at Cedar Crest High in Lebanon — Tuesday at a site and time to be announced.
“We’re like a blue-collar team,” Archbishop Wood coach Hugh Kelly said. “We have to work hard. We’re not by any stretch an outstanding team, we just work hard. Guys are starting to believe in themselves, they pick one another up.
“We went through a lot, the first 10 minutes was a nightmare between guys going down, getting hurt, losing the keeper, we could of just folded our tent. I told them I was very proud of their effort.”
Wood and Strath Haven met in last season’s state semis with the Vikings having their season end in the round for the third year in a row with a 3-2 loss to the Panthers.
“Even though we’re a new team but our goal this year is definitely to win the semifinals,” said Collier, who scored Saturday’s opening goal. “The past two years we’ve lost in the semifinals and being Ryan Morgan’s and all the other seniors’ last years we definitely don’t want them to go out like that.”
Wood have to replace starting goalkeeper Eric Krause in just the game’s second minute after Krause was injured going for a ball in the box. But junior Shaine Kirby came in and provided a steady effort in net the rest of the way — the only goal the junior conceding coming off a own-goal deflection.
“He came out and made a huge save, he made a huge diving save to his right side and from there on out I knew he was ready to go in,” Morgan said. “I told him as soon as he stepped into the net, I said, ‘Keep your focus, stay collected, stay calm. You’ve been here before, it’s just like any other game, just treat it like that.’ And from there on out, he just felt a little more comfortable and our defense was there behind him to clean everything up with him.”
The Firebirds — looking to reach the state semis for the first time since 2014 when it won the 2A title — put pressure on the Vikings early with Zachary Posivak sending a header off a corner high over the crossbar. But it was Wood taking the 1-0 lead at 18:34 in the first half after Christian Clyde sent a free kick forward from the midfield, the ball finding it way to Collier, who ripped a shot into the top right corner.
“I just saw a guy coming near me so I touched it to my left and I just had a wide-open goal,” Collier said. “And I knew I had to hit it early so I did and got lucky, went in the top corner.”
The Vikings came close to doubling their lead early in the second half as a Morgan cross found Braedon Kehan with space in the box but Kehan sent his shot wide right. Holy Ghost’s equalizer came at 31:59 when a cross took a deflection off a Wood header and found its way into the back of the net.
“They were definitely pressing before that goal even happened,” Morgan said. They had three or four really good chances going in and I knew we had to get it out of our side of the half or they were going to knock one in eventually with all the chances they were getting. And they just happened to get a good ball in and I know there was nothing we could do, if he didn’t head the ball , they were going to head it in and score.”
But Morgan provided Wood the go-ahead strike with 23:54 left, making a run down the right side before unleashing a shot that went in after hitting the inside of the far left post.
“I beat the guy with my right foot and I just saw the far post open,” he said. “And I kind of hit it as hard as I could to the far post. Found that side post and went in.
In the late minutes, Holy Ghost put a free kick into the box and after the ball bounced around a moment Gianni Galdo got off a kneeling shot at goal that was blocked. The Firebirds earned two corners in the final seconds but could not put a shot on frame and time ran out, sending Wood back to the semifinals.
“Everyone’s said from the beginning of the season we were a rebuilding team and I never viewed our team as that,” Morgan said. “I think we proved our point so far and we’re still proving our point.”
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