Southmoreland boys soccer team's playoff quest ends in defeat
Tuesday's Section 6-AA boys soccer game between Laurel Highlands and host Southmoreland was filled with significance. Both the Scotties and Mustangs were fighting for their playoff lives.
With so much on the line, both teams played a tight game, but Ryan Gesso connected on the game's only goal to lift the Mustangs to a 1-0 victory.
The win clinched the third and final playoff spot for Laurel Highlands in its first season as a Class AA team.
“The playoffs are something the boys have been trying for all season,” Laurel Highlands second-year coach Zach Sipe said. “They're in the playoffs and it's a great accomplishment for them.”
Had the Mustangs (8-6-2, 6-4-1) lost, they still could have clinched a playoff spot with a win over Uniontown on Thursday. But Sipe was proud of the way his team finished the job against the Scotties.
“I like that we took care of business and clinched the spot,” Sipe said. “In the playoffs, anything can happen.”
The Scotties (5-9-1, 5-6-1) did not have the luxury of a backup plan for getting into the playoffs. Southmoreland was hampered by injuries this season but still challenged to get into the postseason. Their effort came up one game short.
“The first time we played Laurel Highlands (a 4-0 Mustangs win) was the first time we played after some injuries,” Southmoreland coach Chris Fabian said. “(Tuesday) we tightened it up, but give credit where credit is due. Laurel Highlands played well enough to win.”
Laurel Highlands goaltender Jake Mansberry wasn't tested often, stopping six shots. Southmoreland keeper Brian Shaffer made seven saves.
The only shot to elude Shaffer came nearly 18 minutes into the first half. Gesso's long-range blast tailed into the back of Southmoreland net for the game's lone goal.
“I thought it was one of the most wicked shots I've seen all year,” Fabian said. “He hit it with a lot of top spin and it button-hooked at the last minute. That kid hit a great shot, and that was the difference.”
The Scotties pressed hard to try to get the equalizer in the late stages of the second half. With eight minutes remaining, Brock Bell ripped a shot that beat Mansberry but clanked off the crossbar.
The Scotties will focus on trying to finish on a high note.
“We're going to try to get as many wins as we can and salvage what we can of this season and try to get better for next season,” Fabian said.
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3534.