Canon-McMillan, USC boys end in deadlock
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Tuesday's Section 5-AAA boys soccer match between No. 2 Canon-McMillan and top-ranked Upper St. Clair, the defending WPIAL and PIAA champions, could've been viewed as a letdown by some, considering it ended in a 1-1 tie.
That would be widely inaccurate.
Canon-McMillan showed it's still stout defensively despite the loss of goalkeeper James Hathaway and three members of its back line, and Upper St. Clair got plenty of offensive fireworks from Robbie Mertz and Troye Kiernan.
“There's nothing negative to say,” Canon-McMillan coach Larry Fingers said.
Yet for Upper St. Clair (4-0-1, 2-0-1), which outshot Canon-McMillan, 9-4, and forced six more corner kicks, it was hardly a celebration.
“We didn't finish our chances, so how happy can you be?” Upper St. Clair coach Uwe Schneider said. “They're probably a lot happier than we are.”
In the two overtime periods alone, Mertz and Kiernan nearly won it for the Panthers. Canon-McMillan's Nick Sodini, wheeling from his left to his right, almost did likewise for the Big Macs.
Canon-McMillan goalkeeper Christian Snatchko made three gorgeous saves in the 20 minutes of extra time and finished with eight for the game.
“I was proud because we have some young kids playing in the back who are new to playing there,” Fingers said. “They're excellent soccer players, and they didn't miss a beat.”
Canon-McMillan (30-1, 1-0-1) struck first when Jake Wilcox finished a feed from Corey McCurdy in the fourth minute, banking it off Panthers goalkeeper Will Petley from about five yards out.
Mertz tied it for Upper St. Clair in the 59th minute, lofting a free kick from 25 yards into a tiny bit of open space in the top left corner of the Canon-McMillan goal.
“Robbie hit a great free kick,” Fingers said. “No keeper is saving that.”
Mertz nearly struck again when his shot from the left wing in the 73rd minute deflected off Snatchko's hands, sailing barely wide of the far post. His left-footed blast from 25 yards in the 82nd minute nearly made it a short overtime, but it clanked off the left post.
Kiernan's header off a throw-in two minutes later was another near-miss, with Snatchko pushing it out of play with his fingertips.
Two near misses – one on a throw-in, the other on a ball that first hit the football uprights – ensured Upper St. Clair didn't score in the opening half, despite an overwhelming advantage in time of possession.
Snatchko made a spectacular save while diving to his left in the 25th minute. It was reminiscent of the penalty kick that Hathaway stopped in the 2012 WPIAL Class AAA final.
Snatchko got some help about 10 minutes later when Bryan Sontag kept a header off the right post.
Another key defensive play happened in the 45th minute, when Canon-McMillan defender Alex Hannigan, stationed in the middle of the 18-yard box, deflected a shot from point-blank range.
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