PC, SCH boys end soccer seasons, GA wins league and keeps going

by Tom Utescher
Posted 11/16/21

The boys' soccer season ended last week for all but one area squad, as the winner of the Inter-Ac League championship was decided and teams also engaged in the PA Independent Schools tournament.

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PC, SCH boys end soccer seasons, GA wins league and keeps going

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The boys' soccer season ended last week for all but one area squad, as the winner of the Inter-Ac League championship was decided and teams also engaged in the PA Independent Schools tournament.

On the final day of Inter-Ac play last Saturday, November 13, Germantown Academy had its fate entirely in its own hands as it played for the title at Penn Charter at the annual GA-PC Day gathering. The Patriots were sitting in first place with a 7-2 record that translated into 21 points in the standings (three points are earned for a win, one for a tie). Springside Chestnut Hill Academy had two league losses, as well, but the Blue Devils also had a tie with Haverford School in their league ledger, resulting in a 6-2-1 mark that equaled 19 points.

To have a shot at the championship, SCH needed to defeat visiting Malvern Prep on Saturday morning, and hope that it would receive some help from Penn Charter at the same time. However, Germantown Academy took care of business and captured the title with a 3-0 win at PC, while the Blue Devils lost to the Malvern Friars by the same score.

GA topped the final standings at 8-2, SCH was 6-3-1, and by virtue of their victory in Chestnut Hill, the Friars finished in third place at 5-4-1. They were followed by Episcopal Academy (5-5), and Penn Charter and Haverford School (both were 2-7-1, and split in their home/away series).

After early success in non-league matches this fall, the Patriots received a jolt when they lost their first two league games by 1-0 scores to Episcopal and SCH.

Senior scoring ace Christian Combs, who will go on to play at Drexel University, related, "We had a really good pre-season and I guess that led to some cockiness. After that second loss in the league, well, it really humbled us, and our training sessions became a lot more serious. I think effort was a big thing with us. We're a talented team, but we've tried not to rely on that, and to work hard on and off the ball."

PA Independent Schools tournament

Earlier last week, GA and SCH met head-to-head in Chestnut Hill on Thursday in a PAIS tournament semifinal match. The second-seeded Blue Devils (who had started out 6-0 in the Inter-Ac) and number three GA were still locked up at 0-0 three-quarters of the way through the bout, but the Patriots came away with a 1-0 victory on a goal by Combs with 15 minutes remaining.

Germantown advanced into this Wednesday's PAIS championship game against top-seeded Kiski School from western Pennsylvania, a 5-4 semifinal winner over Shipley School. Shipley was the fourth seed for the tourney and the Gators are the 2021 champions in the Friends Schools League.

The GA-Kiski match will be played at 2:30 PM at The Proving Grounds, located just outside of Conshokocken.

In Thursday's semifinal at SCH, the two defensive units kept their goals sealed throughout the first half, when the Blue Devils generated a bit more offensive activity than the Patriots. The Devils sent a shot over the GA cage about five minutes in, and later a GA attempt from the left side of the box had the ball track wide of the far goalpost.

A strong outside shot by the SCH was handled by the Pats' senior goalkeeper Joe Joe Cava (he's actually a baseball catcher who is signing with Wagner College). Not long after that, a free kick from the outside by the hosts found the head of junior Danny Heep, but again the ball went wide to the right.

Near the middle of the opening period, a pair of SCH corners failed to produce a shot, then on a GA corner from the right side the ball traveled all the way through the box and out to the left without a touch. Next, what looked like a dangerous serve toward the goal by the Pats was cleared out of the danger zone by SCH senior back R.T. Genther.

At the other end, a charge by Blue Devils freshman Mike Glennon ended with the ball being booted out of bounds by Germantown senior defender Jacob Lee. After the Patriots disrupted an attack by the Devils in the final minute, the half concluded with the scoreboard still showing double zeroes.

As the second half progressed, both teams continued to have opportunities on offense, but the ball stayed out of the nets.

The lead-up to the game’s lone goal began with under 17 minutes remaining. SCH was awarded a corner kick from the left side, but on the restart, the Blue Devils headed the ball outside of the near post. GA progressed up the field, and on an outside shot that went a bit wide to the right Carberry, the SCH keeper, stopped the ball before it went out across the endline.

On his punt, the ball traveled well past midfield, but with a header followed by a flick, the Patriots quickly moved back up on offense, with the ball a little right of the center of the field. Senior Sean Lipschutz (committed to Franklin and Marshall College) maneuvered farther out on the wing near the sideline, then served the ball to the far side of the box to catch Combs making a run.

Combs had a defender right on him, and the ball deflected off the players and up in the air toward the right. The Drexel recruit stayed with the play and from a few yards past the post he executed sort of a sideways bicycle kick that sent the ball into the goal off of Carberry. The clock showed 14:58 left to play, and the GA goal would hold up for the win.

At the GA-Penn Charter game on Saturday, PC followed its tradition of playing all of its seniors for the first 15 minutes. Not many of them had seen a lot of playing time this season, but they withstood attacks by the Patriots during the first 20 minutes. PC then seized the initiative and put some pressure on the visitors for a stretch, but in the waning moments of the first half GA reasserted itself.

Nevertheless, it was still a 0-0 contest at the break.

The Patriots continued to attack as the second period got underway, and they collected the game-winning goal with three minutes and eight seconds elapsed. From out along the right endline, the ball was sent across the mouth of the goal, but several players in the middle were unable to get a foot on it. Sealing off the play from the left, sophomore Roan Harrington banged the ball back across into the cage.

A little later, with 34:17 remaining, some chippy behavior on both sides culminated in a red card being issued to one player on each team (a double-yellow on GA, and an outright red on PC). It's likely that this gave an edge to the speedy ballhandlers on the Patriots' squad.

Penn Charter got down the field for a shot soon after this, but directed a shot well above the crossbar. The Patriots came back up the field and sprung Combs and junior Nick Venziale loose on a two-man assault up the middle. PC sophomore goalie Pete Punchello (who took over from junior Shawn Flynn after halftime) had to move up out of the cage and Combs, with a passing option in Venziale, took the shot himself to make it 2-0 with 32:38 on the clock.

A bit later GA fans anticipated a third goal when sophomore Aiden Trabosh launched a rocket toward the top right corner, but Punchello dove to make an outstanding save. Near the middle of the second period, a ball hit by Combs that could've been a shot or a pass made its away from left to right in front of the cage, just a yard from the goal line. No one was there to punch it in, though, and a minute later a Patriot header rose above the Quakers' crossbar.

As the clock dipped below 15 minutes remaining, Charter sophomore Jimmy Melnick took the ball off of GA at midfield, but as he was trying to make a pass Trabosh stepped in to regain possession for the Patriots. He fed the ball up to Lipschutz to start the senior off on a run up the right border of the penalty box. Punchello had to advance out of the cage again, and Lipschutz shot the ball by him.

The 3-0 final score was in the book with 14:34 remaining, although Germantown continued to develop scoring chances.

It was the Patriots' first Inter-Ac championship since 2009. That was the senior season of Dan Lovitz, now playing pro soccer for Nashville SC of the MLS. The coach of that GA team, Patrick David, was among the crowd at last Saturday's game.

Christian Combs' history with the GA soccer program goes back a ways, as well. His brothers Steve ('16) and Harrison ('18) both played for the Patriots.

"I grew up watching them," he said, "and it's an honor for me to be able to play in these big games like they did."

Neither of the older Combs brothers won an Inter-Ac championship though, or played in an Indy Schools state final.

Asked about the recent rise of the GA program, Christian Combs reflected,

"The biggest thing was having our new coach come in, Kurt Wetzel [a GA faculty member and father of Connor Wetzel, another senior on the team].

He really decided to change the community. Each year we became closer as teammates, and the chemistry got better and better. We're definitely a tight-knit team."

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