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Springdale boys soccer set for semifinal match

Michael Love
| Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017, 12:42 a.m.
Springdale's Michael Mitchell moves the ball past Serra Catholic's Chris Salemi during their WPIAL first round playoff game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, at North Allegheny High School.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Springdale's Michael Mitchell moves the ball past Serra Catholic's Chris Salemi during their WPIAL first round playoff game Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, at North Allegheny High School.

For much of the regular season, the Springdale boys soccer team worked on setting up corner kicks as high-level scoring opportunities.

The players knew that continued work and repetition could lead to good things.

The Dynamos finally cashed in on the set piece in the regular-season finale against California.

It worked again in the first-round victory over Serra Catholic last Saturday, as Zach Liberati found Nick Taliani in front of the net, and Taliani headed the ball in for the score.

The two connected again in the second half of Wednesday's quarterfinal contest against No. 2 Freedom at Mars High School. The goal at the midpoint of the final 40 minutes proved to be the winner. With the 2-1 victory, No. 7 Springdale advanced to Saturday's semifinals against No. 3 Seton LaSalle.

Kickoff at North Allegheny is set for 1 p.m.

“You have to capitalize on every opportunity they give to you (in the playoffs), Liberati said.”

The Dynamos (14-4-1) are in the WPIAL semifinals for the first time since 2010. They hope this experience in the final four works out better than the last one.

That year, Springdale, as the No. 3 seed, suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to Greensburg Central Catholic in the semifinals and lost to Beaver in the consolation game.

No matter how Saturday's game turns out, the Dynamos know they will play an additional game in the WPIAL playoffs. It will be either the championship game at Highmark Stadium or the third-place game with a trip to states on the line.

“The guys believe in themselves that they can win any game in the playoffs,” coach Cesareo Sanchez said. “Our section was very good all season, and it prepared us for games like these.”

Liberati has a goal and three assists in the playoffs. In addition to Taliani's two header goals, Justin McClafferty had a pair of goals and one assist.

Michael Krason's first-half goal Wednesday off a centering pass from McClafferty tied Freedom 1-1 and set the stage for the second-half drama.

Section 3-A boasted a playoff-best three teams in the quarterfinals, and Springdale and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic will carry the section banner in the semifinals.

Seton LaSalle (17-2-1) took out Section 3 members in each of the first two rounds. The Rebels narrowly beat Riverview, 1-0, in the quarterfinals after a first-round 3-1 victory over Avonworth.

The Dynamos hope to end that streak and make it to the WPIAL finals.

The Rebels have captured six WPIAL championships since 2002, with the most recent one coming in 2015. Seton, as the No. 1 seed in Class A last year, made it to the semifinals before falling to North Catholic by a 3-0 score.

Springdale limited Freedom's high-powered offense to just four second-half shots, and only one came from within 20 yards. The Dynamos have allowed only eight goals in 17 games since surrendering seven against North Catholic on Sept. 5.

“Our defense is there in the right place at the right time, and that's what we need to do,” Sanchez said.

A cautious approach continued Thursday and Friday as leading scorer, senior forward Jared Demore, continued treating his ankle injury suffered early in last Saturday's first-round win over Serra Catholic.

Demore didn't start Wednesday's game as Sanchez opted for a formation that included an extra defenseman. Sanchez said that when positive defensive signs showed themselves, Demore entered the contest.

He went full speed up top throughout and wore an ice pack on his left ankle after the game.

“It was a little uncomfortable at first, but when I settled in, I was just able to play,” said Demore, who has 24 goals on the season. “Once the adrenaline kicked in, I didn't even notice it.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mlove_Trib.

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