Riverview, Springdale boys soccer facing crucial stretch in Section 3-A
The Springdale and Riverview boys soccer teams enter Tuesday's Section 3-A play date tied for third place with 5-2-1 records.
But both the Dynamos and Raiders sit two points away from second-place Avonworth (6-2) and also are trying to close the gap on section leader Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic (8-0).
With six games remaining in the section slate, the coaches and players from the teams expect competitive games to decide the order of finish.
“It's definitely fun playing these competitive games. We know it's going to be a dogfight to the end,” said Dynamos junior goalkeeper Mike Zolniercyzk, who made 23 saves in a 1-0 overtime loss to North Catholic on Saturday.
Riverview completed a season sweep of Carlynton, 4-1, on Saturday, two days after the Raiders and Springdale played to a 1-1 tie at Riverside Park in Oakmont.
“The teams are starting to look at where they want to be in the brackets come playoff time and figuring out what needs to be done to put themselves in the best spot possible,” said Riverview coach Mickey Namey, whose Raiders squad hopes to earn one of the section's four playoff spots after missing the postseason in 2015 and ‘16.
Avonworth also is in position to finish off a turnaround performance in the section after going 2-11-1 last year.
Riverview started 4-0 in section play with wins over Carlynton, Eden Christian, Aquinas Academy and Vincentian and outscored the four opponents 16-0.
The Raiders then ran into a roadblock in North Catholic, which scored a 7-0 win. Three days later, Riverview dropped a 3-0 decision to Avonworth.
But the team is 2-0-1 overall since and has earned four points in the standings with the tie against Springdale and Saturday's triumph over Carlynton.
“The big loss to North Catholic put things in perspective a little bit,” Namey said. “They had to regroup, and they are playing well. We brought in a new formation and are finding the net a little more. It's all there. We're shooting for an undefeated second half.”
Riverview tuned up for Tuesday afternoon's section match against Eden Christian at Riverside Park with a 9-0 nonsection rout at Valley on Monday.
“We just need to keep playing how we've been playing,” junior forward Christoph Hudack said.
“We seem to be getting our momentum back. We felt we had been playing well, but it just came down to putting away some important goals.”
Senior midfielder Sean Abraham said there are some small things — “nitty-gritty details” he called them — that can help the team be even better.
“We had those connecting passes (against Springdale) and were playing well as a team,” said Abraham, who scored Riverview's lone goal against Springdale.
“The defense stepped it up that game. We just wish we could've pushed that one extra goal past their keeper.”
Springdale and Riverview will play a rematch Oct. 12 at Springdale.
Last year's section finale between the teams went in the Dynamos' favor, 2-0. Springdale vaulted into a tie for second place with Aquinas Academy, and Riverview found itself on the outside looking in for the playoffs.
Dynamos hope to surge
Saturday's overtime setback to North Catholic, Springdale coach Cesareo Sanchez said, was a vast turnaround from the first meeting won by the Trojans, 7-1.
“We adjusted with a new game plan, and the players executed it,” he said. “I was very proud of the kids. They played through overtime last Thursday (against Riverview) and then again on Saturday in pretty hot weather. But the guys remained strong to the end of both games.”
North Catholic picked up Saturday's game winner just two minutes into the first overtime on a free kick.
“It was a well-played game on both sides,” Sanchez said. Zolnierczyk stopped 23 Trojans shots.
“Without him, we don't get to overtime,” Sanchez said.
Springdale went on an unbeaten streak after the first North Catholic contest, winning five in a row before tying the Raiders.
Senior defender Logan Panza's penalty-kick goal with 23 minutes left in the second half against Riverview tied the game. Senior forward Justin McClafferty hit the crossbar on a close-range rebound midway through the second overtime.
“We knew it was going to be a close game,” said senior forward Jared Demore, the team leader in goals with 13.
“It was a pretty good defensive game on our part. We just couldn't get too many (scoring) opportunities.”
The Dynamos visit winless Aquinas on Tuesday afternoon before Thursday's home rematch against Avonworth.
Avonworth beat Springdale, 2-1, in the first meeting Sept. 12.