Springdale boys soccer edges No. 2 Freedom to reach semifinals
Springdale knew of Freedom's offensive and defensive prowess that propelled it to an undefeated record in Class A Section 1, a 17-1 regular-season mark and the No. 2 seed for the WPIAL Class A playoffs.
The Dynamos saw how the Bulldogs routed Trinity Christian to advance into the quarterfinals.
But Springdale, the No. 7 seed, felt confident with its own game and the resume it crafted to also make it to the round of eight.
Springdale senior midfielder Nick Taliani's header off a corner kick from fellow senior Zach Liberati with 19 minutes, 20 seconds left in the second half was the difference in Springdale's 2-1 victory over Freedom at Mars.
The goal came on Springdale's only shot over the final 40 minutes.
“We were trying to get corners in all year,” Taliani said. “(Zach) just put it right on my head, and I put it in. I just can't thank my teammates enough.”
Springdale (14-4-1) advances to Saturday's WPIAL semifinals, where it will face No. 3 Seton LaSalle at a site and time to be determined. The Rebels defeated Riverview, Springdale's Section 3 rival, 1-0, on Wednesday.
The Dynamos will play one additional game in the WPIAL playoffs after the semifinals, either the title game or a third-place consolation contest. The top three teams in Class A advance to the PIAA tournament.
Springdale gained a measure of revenge from a 3-2 double-overtime loss to Freedom in last year's first round. But Taliani said while the team had last year's loss in the back of its mind, it also just wanted to take care of business and make it into the semifinals. Advancing was motivation enough.
“This win feels great,” Taliani said. “It's uplifting for the whole school. Nothing beats this feeling.”
Freedom (18-2) came into the game averaging 6.6 goals. It took a 1-0 lead with 19:22 left in the first half on a goal from junior forward Ethan Paxton.
Senior midfielder Santino Guandolo dribbled in and shifted the ball 1 yard to his left. Paxton did the rest, putting a shot past Springdale junior keeper Mike Zolnierczyk.
Zolnierczyk and the Dynamo defense kept Freedom off the board the rest of the game. Zolnierczyk made seven saves, and the defense limited the Bulldogs offense to four shots in the second half with only one of those shots coming from inside the box.
Freedom had a corner kick with 10 seconds left, but Zolnierczyk punched the ball out of danger as the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“We worked very hard for two days on how we were going to play their dangerous forwards and stop their offense as a whole,” Springdale coach Cesareo Sanchez said.
“The guys took our instructions perfectly. We watched the tape and knew what Freedom had and what we have. The last 15 or 16 minutes, it was all defense. I am very proud of the players.”
Springdale tied the game 1-1 with 15:19 left in the first half as sophomore midfielder Michael Krason took a crossing pass from senior Justin McClafferty and beat Freedom goaltender Nick Dinardo
“We just couldn't get that extra goal or enough goals to win the game tonight. That last 20 minutes, we were all over them but couldn't get one to go in,” Freedom coach Colin Williams said. “The kids are a bit disappointed, but good to (Springdale). They challenged us and worked hard. ... It just wasn't our night.”
Dynamos senior forward Jared Demore, the team's leading scorer with 24 goals, suffered an ankle injury early in Saturday's win over Serra and was unable to practice Monday or Tuesday. He didn't start, but he entered the game about 10 minutes in.
Demore was sprinting full speed for most of the game and wore an ice pack on his left ankle after the contest.
“It will be sore tonight and tomorrow, but it is a good soreness,” Demore said. “After a big win like that, the pain really doesn't matter.”