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Wood’s makeshift roster tops George School

WARMINSTER >> Archbishop Wood had two goals for its game against the George School.
Simply put, the Vikings wanted to stay healthy and win the game, but mostly stay healthy. Already beaten up and with a week full of big implication games on tap, Wood did just that.
After being stymied by keeper Nick Lilley for a half, the Viking got their breakthrough and took a 3-0 victory to end their week.
“We’ve got some guys hurting right now,” Wood junior midfielder RJ Liszewski said. “We got it together. Our JV guys played well for it being their first time on a varsity field. Kris (Wolf) scored his first varsity goal, so it was a good day.”
For 40 minutes, it was a frustrating day. Wood totally dominated every stat, owning a 13-2 edge in shots and nine corner kicks to just one for George School. The only thing that kept it a game at the half was the play of Lilley.
Lilley did everything but literally stand on his head when he denied four Wood shots in a quick flurry midway through the first half. A fifth shot hit the post to further Wood’s frustrations in the opening half.
By the time the referee’s whistle sounded, Lilley had recorded seven saves, including an incredible diving effort to just clip a ball with his feet and deny what looked a sure goal.
“He made a ton of good saves, point-blank shots,” Wood coach Hugh Kelly said. “He covered the box, commanded the box well, came off his line strong. He’s a very competent keeper for sure.”
Yet, Wood was undaunted.
“It’s definitely frustrating but the more he stops you, the more you want to score,” Wood winger Nick Sorini said.
Sorini had been close a few times in the first half, so it seemed fitting he would be the guy to finally break through. Wood won a corner early in the second half, setting up Liszewski to drive a ball into the box.
The workhorse center mid hit a quality service, sending the ball right into the heart of the box and finding target man Mike Smith. Smith, a towering but technical forward, headed the ball into the fray where Sorini was able to get in and knock it home.
“I’m just thinking I have to get the ball in the net,” Sorini said. “We thought if we could get one, we could get five.”
The goal was exactly what the Vikings needed. Fullback Shawn Clark had a forceful shot from well outside the box go just wide to keep the pressure on and a few minutes later, Liszewski gave Wood some breathing room.
A great ball by Jake Maier found the midfielder slithering through the back line and there was little Lilley could do from close range.
“Once we scored the second and third, the game really calmed down,” Liszewski said.
Wood continued pressing, even as the reserves and emergency JV call-ups filtered in for extended runs. Late in the half, the Vikings iced it up when Wolf took a well-threaded through ball from Eddie Sloan and beat Lilley one-v-one.
“We’re definitely thin, we’re light on numbers, we’re banged up and we’re young,” Kelly said. “It’s not a good combination when you get injuries.”
Liszewski’s play in all facets of the game was a major factor in Wood’s win. The junior was able to dictate play in the center of the park with Sloan providing back up. When Liszewski had the ball, he was able to spray it out and ahead to different targets and his set piece deliveries were dangerous all day.
Kelly called the performance a confidence booster for the players involved. He likes his team’s desire to work and improve and said the next step is to defend and win as a unit.
After losing 14 seniors last year and Kelly taking over for longtime coach Joe Krantz after his retirement, some change was to be expected. Still, this is a talented group. They could just use a few breaks in the injury department.
“We’re excited with where we’re at but we’re realistic as well,” Kelly said. “Every game’s going to be a battle. There’s no easy ones left, especially from here on out. We have our work cut out for us.”

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