Attack and defend – all season long, that has been the message the Shipley boys’ soccer coaching staff, consisting of head coach Thom Schauerman and assistant coaches Bryan Johnson and Charles Sales, has been preaching.
“I just think the boys have been organized, well disciplined and communicate well with each other on the field,’ said Schauerman. “We have been scoring goals and keeping low numbers in the goals against. The boys work hard and it’s something we work on. We talk about defending being a mindset and you hope the boys buy into it. That has been our mentality all season.’
On Friday afternoon at the Farm Fields, the location where Shipley plays its home matches, the Gators attack and defend mentality was on full display in a 4-1 win over Westtown in the Friend’s Schools League boys soccer final. The victory marks the second consecutive season Shipley (18-2-3, 9-0-0) defeated Westtown (10-8-0, 6-4-0) in the FSL final.
“This title is very special,’ said senior co-captain Konrad Bulanowski, who scored three goals in the win. “It is one thing to win a title playing with your club team or academy team but to win a high school title is special. In high school you are playing for your school and your friends.’
A prime example of the attack and defend mentality occurred in the middle of the first half. With the score leveled at 1-1, Westtown seemed prime to take a 2-1 lead but Shipley keeper Ben Tirjan had other thoughts stopping two point blank shots before lunging and hitting the post to keep a third attempt out of the net.
Shortly after that sequence that culminated with Westtown coming up empty, the Gators went on the attack that culminated with junior Michael Burns chipping a perfect feed into the box that would find the back of the net courtesy of Bulanowski header just minutes prior to halftime giving Shipley an important 2-1 halftime lead.
“That save by Ben was huge,’ Bulanowski said. “You never know what would have happened if they scored. That play changed the whole game.’
“I was upset with the direct kick I felt I should have saved,’ Tirjan said, referring to Westtown’s first goal. “I just had to be on my toes and be ready for anything.’
With the win Shipley was able to check off one of its pre-season goals they were hoping to accomplish in an action packed season that has included its fair share of overtime wins, a few tough losses and minor injuries. Throughout the season, Schauerman has needed different people to step up in different situations.
Schauerman said. “I think we are a team. “I believe that we are a team and I know the boys feel we are a team because they believe in one another and no one cares who gets the credit. I have never had a group that we relied on in so many different situations. They push each other in practice and they respect each other.’
“This title is special. Every guy has played different roles. We had guys step up and score goals. We had guys defend and I believe this a team through and through with many interchangeable parts.’
“This season has been really special and our seniors are a big reason,’ said Tirjan. “They have been clutch and have done a great job keeping us focused and they are the make-up of most of our team. Konrad has been our leading goal scorer; Ian (Hamilton) and Conor (Higgins) run the midfield which is so important because it allows us to dictate play and Trevawn (Webster) and Brandon (Peltz) really control the defense.’
In addition to overcoming injuries to key people at various parts of the season, Schauerman has also had to find a way to utilize two talented keepers in Tirjan and Jake Trachtenberg who are both juniors.
Schauerman said, “I am in a great and tough situation at the same time. I have two talented goalies that are both juniors. Jake’s been solid in various games and Ben has been solid in other games. Obviously its tough being able to play only one goalie. It’s not like a field player where you can flip-flop people around. Both Ben and Jake have been great ‘
The FSL title is the latest achievement for a team that completed an undefeated FSL season along with registering important non-league wins over perennial powers Haverford School, Strath Haven High School, LaSalle College High School and Springside Chestnut Hill.
With the season winding down, Shipley’s remaining goal is to be playing next Saturday night in the Pa. Independent Schools state final.