Valley, Burrell boys soccer teams battle to tie
In establishing themselves as contenders for the Section 1-AA title, both defending champion Burrell and upstart Valley have prided themselves on their ability to play skillful, possession-oriented soccer.
On Saturday afternoon that was thrown to the wayside, as the rivals played to a 1-1 tie through double overtime in a spirited and physical — but somewhat sloppy — contest at Valley.
The draw is the first blemish for Burrell, which had won its first seven games. The Bucs (7-0-1, 5-0-1) still sit atop Section 1-AA, with Valley (5-1-2, 4-0-2) less than a game behind.
“This game was pretty intense; it's a rivalry,” Burrell coach T.J. Trozzi said. “I was telling their coach earlier, I'm happy to see Burrell and Valley atop the section. That's the most you could want out of an area like this.”
While Valley coach Andy DeAntonio wasn't pleased with the style of his team's play, he was happy with the result and the effort the Vikings put forth for 100 minutes.
“You can't complain about a 1-1 result against Burrell,” DeAntonio said. “I think that stalemate was just from sloppy soccer. I think both teams play better than that. … But I'm happy with the way the guys responded, because that's a big game.”
Right off the opening kick, Burrell took the game to Valley. Spearheaded by the forward tandem of brothers senior Pete and junior Tom Spagnolo, the Vikings were pushed back on their heels until the Bucs found a breakthrough.
“They have chemistry. They know each other and know how they play,” Trozzi said. ”They provide some of the most intensity on the team, and they have a lot of knowledge of soccer. They grew up with the game.”
Sophomore midfielder Joey Cox gave Burrell the early lead at the 15-minute mark, finding space off of a free kick and calmly heading a Pete Spagnolo cross into the net.
Valley counter-punched shortly after and took the attack to Burrell. After a period of sustained Vikings pressure, a mistake by the Bucs in their own box gave the hosts their chance in the waning moments of the first half. With a loose ball rolling toward an empty net and players on both sides rushing toward it, Valley junior midfielder Ethan Walkowiak won the foot race and scored with a sliding finish, tying the score, 1-1.
“We weren't able to score the nice goal, but we were able to put the ball in the net, and that really is what good teams are able to do,” DeAntonio said. “I don't know if that's a goal we get last year. That definitely comes from pressure.”
Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.