Connellsville boys soccer team finishes at .500 after topping Southmoreland
For the Connellsville boys soccer team, finishing the season on a strong note meant more than just picking up a victory in the season finale.
The Falcons entered Tuesday's nonsection game against Southmoreland hoping to avoid a losing season, and Connellsville came through with a big effort on its way to a 3-0 victory over the playoff-bound Scotties. The win clinched a .500 season for the Falcons (9-9).
“It's been an up-and-down year,” Connellsville coach Jason Rice said. “If we play whole games,we probably would have won a few more, but we're learning.”
Rice understood the significance of piecing together a .500 campaign.
“It's big for us,” Jason Rice said. “It helps us build throughout the program.”
For the Scotties (12-5-1), a third-place finish in Section 6-AA gives them the chance to compete in the WPIAL playoffs, which could start as early as Saturday. However, coach Chris Hixson didn't see a lot to build on in the game against Connellsville, which was played at Hempfield because of flood damage that was sustained at Russ Grimm Field earlier this season.
“(Connellsville) is a very good team, and we found out some things we needed to work on,” Hixson said.
Hixson noted that many of the changes his players need to make are mental.
“It's more attitude and focus,” Hixson said. “We have to have the attitude to be focused for games, and I'm hoping that attitude will be there (in the playoffs).”
One of the bright spots for Southmoreland was the play of Brian Shaffer. The Scotties' keeper made several tough saves, which kept his team within striking distance.
“Brian is great,” Hixson said. “He probably gets overlooked because we expect him to make the big saves.”
Shaffer was good, but so was Connellsville keeper Lawrence Becker. The Falcons didn't give up many quality chances, but when they did, Becker excelled.
“Becker has come up big for us,” Rice said.
The Falcons out-chanced the Scotties, and they were rewarded for their hard work, when Jacob Rice broke through the middle and slid a low shot past Shaffer to give Connellsville a 1-0 lead 16 minutes into the game.
Then in the second half, Southmoreland pressured for the tying goal, but were denied several times.
Connellsville's Jeffrey Kreinbrook then scored a huge goal. He deflected a ball high into the right corner to give the Falcons a 2-0 lead with 24 minutes to go. Moments later, Jacob Rice sealed it when he drilled one past Shaffer on a penalty kick for his second goal.
For the Falcons, it was a fitting end to the season.
“One of our goals this year was to be in every game, and we were, except for one,” Jason Rice said.
Connellsville finished 6-0 in nonsection play. Every nonsection victory was a shutout.
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.