RED HILL >> The Unionville defense didn’t allow Wilson a single shot in the first half Tuesday night.
Clearly it was going to take something special for the Bulldogs to break down such opposition.
Luckily for Wilson, Tyler Dell had something in mind.
The senior midfielder’s audacious one-timer from 35 yards in the 51st minute gave Wilson a quick reward after being bossed in the first half and opened the floodgates for the Bulldogs on the way to a 4-0 victory over Unionville in a PIAA Class 4A semifinal at Upper Perkiomen.
Final: Wilson 4, Unionville 0, PIAA 4A boys soccer semifinal. Bulldogs are Hershey bound after irresistible performance in second half. Dell on the double pic.twitter.com/HZAMbJmGpO
— Austin Hertzog (@AustinHertzog) November 14, 2018
Wilson is Hershey-bound for the fourth time in program history and will meet another District 1 side, Radnor, which defeated Seneca Valley 3-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal in Chambersburg. The final takes place Saturday, 6:30 p.m. at HersheyPark Stadium.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to do it with this group of guys,” Dell said. “It shows that we can do anything we want.”
Dell scored two goals while senior forward Sage Klein had a goal and two assists and junior forward Patrick Ndambo also scored. Sophomore midfielder Devven Frey also had an assist, an innocuous pass in the midfield that turned into Dell’s shining moment.
“We weren’t proud of what we did in the first half. That just wasn’t us. That wasn’t Wilson soccer,” forward Sage Klein said. “It would take heart to work to get it done and I think that’s what we did.”
Unionville saw its season conclude 18-7-1 after taking a share of the Ches-Mont League championship and qualifying for the PIAA tournament for the first time since 2014 and fourth time this century.
A state semifinal run — Unionville also reached the PIAA semis in 2009 as District 1 champion, losing to eventual champ Father Judge in OT — was outstanding from a team that entered the District 1 playoffs as the No. 9 seed.
“These guys had a great season,” longtime Unionville coach Rich Garber said. “I can’t fault their effort because they gave me everything they have. They believed in each other and started bonding as a team and got better and more confident in themselves. When you’re confident and playing as a team, you can get real far.”
Through 40 minutes Tuesday, it seemed like Unionville’s season was headed to Hershey. The Indians owned the first half with front-foot defending from center backs Garrett Pinkston and Matt Adams and outside backs Luke Needs and Alex O’Leary supporting the attack of midfielders Michael Hewes, Mark Echevarria and Evan Dougherty and forward Tom Kelly. Unionville had six shots to zero for Wilson, but no great scoring chance from their spell of dominance — an opportunity missed that would come back to haunt.
“I thought we played wonderfully. We controlled most of the game. For us to not get one the first half was OK, we could live with it,” Garber said.
“First half we looked scared,” Dell said of Wilson’s play. “Our coaches laid into us at half and let us know we’re a lot better than (our first-half play). But second half we showed we can play with any team.”
That’s indisputable from a team that previously knocked off the District 12 champion (Roman Catholic) and District 11 champ (Freedom), both without conceding a goal. The District 3 silver medalists have six shutouts in their last seven postseason matches.
Wilson brought the fight early in the second half and were rewarded 11 minutes in. Given some space so far from goal, rather than dribbling the ball closer to the penalty area, Dell took a rip and sent a majestic shot over Unionville goalkeeper Alex Dolce for the opener with 29:11 to play.
“It just came to me. It always happens in practice, I just never do it in a game,” Dell said. “(To do it in the) state semifinal, it’s unbelievable.”
It was a shot so good, even the opposing coach couldn’t help but speak highly of the strike.
“That kid hit it great. That first goal was beautiful,” Garber said. “I think we kind of lost our heads and all of a sudden it was a steamroller.”
Wilson kept the momentum almost the entire second half and salted the game on Klein’s lofted hit from the left flank after a throw-in was sent back toward the sideline for a 2-0 margin with 10:18 to play. Patrick Ndambo made it three on a breakaway after goalkeeper Ben Solsky’s punt into the wind got behind the Indians’ defense while Dell got his double on an end-line cut-back from Klein after a free kick on the left side.
“They were down our throats the whole first half, but from the second-half whistle on we kept running and running,” Dell said. “Once the first one came, they just kept coming.”
It was Unionville’s most lopsided defeat of the season after conceding only 17 goals in 25 matches coming in. But after reaching the state’s final four, it’s hard to feel too hard done considering the Indians extended their season beyond their “season-ending” banquet.
“We had our banquet the other day. I don’t know if that was bad luck or not? I never actually had a game after the banquet,” Garber said. “It’s a wonderful bunch who was so great to work with.”