SPENCERPORT — The Honeoye Falls-Lima boys soccer team gave up a grand total of nine goals headed into Tuesday night, so that’s why it may have been a bit unsettling to see one hit the back of its own net just 38 seconds into the Class A state tournament qualifying match.
“For whatever reason we weren’t ready to play or were a little bit scared and didn’t think we could compete,” Cougars coach Mike Merrill said. “But once we settled down and played soccer, I thought we started to play great.”
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But it wasn’t good enough to overcome Greece Athena or some bad luck. The Trojans took advantage of that early goal and made an HF-L own-goal later in the first half hold up for a 2-1 victory at Spencerport High. They’ll play Iroquois or Grand Island from the Buffalo area (Section VI) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a state quarterfinal or Far West Regionals at Sweet Home.
“To get out of Section V is big thing,” Athena senior defender Matt Dellario said. “We had a really good team last year and we weren’t able to do it.”
That’s because HF-L (15-4-1) knocked off Athena (14-3-3). After playing to a 1-1 tie in the qualifier, the Cougars advanced on penalty kicks. That exacted some revenge for Athena’s 3-1 comeback win in this round in 2015. Ultimately, though, the Trojans got the last laugh in the rubber match on Tuesday.
“They were coming at us the whole time, nothing easy, I’d say. I think it’s a survive-and-advance kind of thing,” said Athena coach Mike Butler, whose 2014 squad won the state title. “We did get some breaks.”
On Tuesday, Athena burst on top less than a minute into the match after eighth-grader Dylan Rice sent a pass in front that sophomore C.J. Takatch converted. Takatch, whose nine goals are second on the team to senior Ryan Lindeman, also scored the first goal in Friday’s 3-1 win over rival Greece Arcadia in the Class A1 title match.
“That’s one of the things we talk about often, let’s score early,” Butler said. “You’re going to get chances early and if you can finish something it makes your life easier.”
But midway through the first half, HF-L began to find a rhythm and gain the edge in possession. In one frantic sequence, Athena goalkeeper Thomas Pupatelli blocked two point-blank headers with his hands and then Dellario nodded a follow-up shot off the goal line.
“I’m just trying stay alert, get ready for anything, you know,” Pupatelli said. “The first save comes in, make it and then get ready for the next one and hope your defenders can come up clutch when they need to, and they did.”
The decisive goal came in the 32nd minute. Athena senior Cameron Welling took a 15-yard shot off a pass by Anthony Loiacono. It was likely headed wide of the far post, but the shot caromed off the chest of an HF-L defender about four yards out, wrong-footing goalie Nico Coria and the ball rolled over the goal line.
The Cougars didn’t quit, though. Just three minutes later, Peter Hotchkiss converted and it was a huge, momentum-saving goal that kept HF-L within striking distance at halftime, down just 2-1. But neither team got much going in a second half that featured a lot fewer chances.
“Unfortunately we didn’t convert on a couple of opportunities, but I was pleased how the boys came back and showed some resiliency and got back in the game,” Merrill said.