Kallam goal sends Belle Vernon to soccer semis
Right before the 2011 soccer season, Jesse Kallam was one of two then-juniors, along with Ryan Thomas, who decided to go out for the Belle Vernon Area soccer team.
Thursday night, Kallam scored the lone goal of BVA's 1-0 win over third-seeded West Allegheny to help the team advance to the Class AA semifinals for the third straight year.
“Jesse Kallam has played soccer for all of 14 months in his life,” BVA coach John Kerekes said with a smile. “He is playing unbelievable and everyone will see the goal, but (David) Wurmlinger played his butt off to play that ball.
“I am so happy for Jesse because he is a good kid. I am glad that he and Ryan (Thomas) came out.”
The teams played a relatively even first half, although the Indians (15-3) had more scoring opportunities.
West Allegheny, the Section 5 AA co-champions, controlled the play early in the second half and BVA (14-3) seemed to be focused on playing solid defense and looking for a any chance that would arise.
“West Allegheny took it to us quite a bit,” Kerekes said. “But it's like we told them, we are an experienced team and we aren't going to panic.
“We take advantage of our chances and we didn't play our best game tonight, but we stepped up when we had to.”
With 14:18 left in the match, BVA came within inches of scoring.
Kallam put a shot on goal and West Allegheny keeper Spencer Wolfe knocked the ball out in front of the net.
David Wurmlinger played the rebound and blasted a shot that went just over the goal box.
A mere 89 seconds later, the senior duo reversed roles and with 12:49 left in the contest, Wurmlinger put a shot on Wolfe.
As the ball bounced in the air, Kallam jumped and headed the ball over two Indian defenders for the contest's lone tally.
“T.J. (Radic) played a good ball to Wurm and played it back and put a shot on goal and I was able to get in there and make a play,” Kallam said. “Our defense and goalie are playing amazing and we got the goal we needed.”
Kallam didn't remember much after the goal.
“It was amazing and I don't know what the feeling was, but I just turned and hugged the first person I saw,” he said. “I have no clue who it was and it was all a blur.”
Not lost on Kerekes was the play of keeper Alex Robinson and defenders Alan Robinson, David Kost, Geno Leone, and Jake Martin.
“The story of these playoffs for us is the play of our defense,” Kerekes said. “Alex played amazing and we only have one defensive starter from last year.
“They are playing lights out.”
Alex Robinson made 10 saves to record his seventh shutout of the season.
The Leps are following a similar path to the WPIAL semifinals.
“Just like a year ago, we beat Blackhawk in the first round and won at Peters (Township) by one goal in the quarters,” Kerekes said. “We are on the same path.”
To make it to the WPIAL finals for the second straight year, the Leps will have to defeat the second-seeded Mars Planets (17-2-1).
“They are a talented team,” Kerekes said. “But so are we.”
The contest will be played Tuesday and it is expected it will take place during a boys-girls doubleheader as the Lady Leps also take on Mars in the semis.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.