SMYRNA – One of the hallmarks of Appoquinimink’s boys soccer team this season has been its ability to bounce back after allowing a goal.
That resiliency was needed in Wednesday’s matchup against Charter School of Wilmington in the semifinals of the DIAA Division I Boys Soccer Tournament at Smyrna when the Jaguars allowed the Force to equalize midway through the second half.
Appoquinimink responded by eventually regaining the lead with a Matt Meadows goal in the game’s 75th minute before holding off one last charge by Charter to earn a 2-1 victory and a berth in the state championship game.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year. They don’t get down on themselves. It’s a very resilient group, especially for such a young team,” Jaguar head coach Adam Bear said. “They don’t yell at each other. They just rebound. I think Charter out played us. They had most of the possession and played better in the second half than we did, but when we get our opportunities, we put them in.”
Second-seeded Appoquinimink (15-2) entered the second half holding a 1-0 lead thanks to an Alex Suarez goal in the 20th minute, but the third-seeded Force was the more attacking team in the second half, leading to a Jacob Ogrodnik goal in the 63rd minute to tie the game at 1-1.
Both teams had chances over the next 10 minutes to take the lead, but neither could capitalize until the 75th minute when a Jose Hilaro cross found Meadows near the six-yard mark, and Meadows rocketed the shot into the net to give the Jaguars a 2-1 lead.
“Jose (Hilario) put in a good cross, and three players missed it. I put it away. I was composed, just looking for a finish. A great finish actually. Last five minutes,” Meadows said.
Over the final five minutes, Charter applied a lot of pressure on the Appoquinimink defense in an attempt to get the tying goal and included its goalkeeper in its attack in the final two minutes.
With less than a minute to go in the game, Charter had a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box, but Jaguar goalkeeper Jason Sommer made a save through traffic on the kick to preserve the victory.
The win puts Appoquinimink in the state championship game for the first time since 2013 where it will face Salesianum, who won 2-1 in the teams’ earlier game this season.
The Jaguars know the task ahead of them.
“There’s a little bit of anxiety. Being in the state final, you get you a little nervous, but I think the boys can handle it,” Sommer said. “We’ve seen them before, and they have a big reputation around the state. We know we got to do, which is to stay focused.”