Pack snatches victory from Huskies 3-2 (full story)

The Wolfpack endured a shaky start to a physical game to come up trumps in extra time against a strong South Hills Huskies squad. With tired legs and the score at 2-2, Claremont pressed forward. A sweeping counter attack had South Hills on the back foot, and Claremont scored what proved to be the winning goal when Ben Santia deflected Auden Foxe’s shot into the net.

Coach Fred Bruce-Oliver sent his team out in an adventurous 4-3-3 formation featuring a central target striker and 2 out-and-out wingers. Confident after taking home the first-place trophy at the Upland Tournament 2 weeks ago and scoring 7 goals against Hesperia, the Wolfpack stuck to the classy, neat passing game that worked so well in those games.

Claremont’s back 4 were exposed quickly, however, as Cassady O’Reilly-Hahn was quickest to clean up a wayward back pass that almost let in Huskies striker Grayson Iwasaki. On 13 minutes, the Wolfpack’s risky passing in their own half was punished, as the Huskies’ Eder Suarez stole in and fed Iwasaki a clever lobbed finish over Claremont goalkeeper Nick Serabyn. Bruce-Oliver later said, “we rushed our passes more than I liked today, but I never wanted us to abandon our game plan.”

The game was already turning into a grudge match, with hard challenges flying in all over the field. Santia picked up the first yellow card of the match when he produced a frustrated shoulder-first lunge to win back possession. Minutes later, South Hills midfielder Bryce Eberhard scythed down Claremont’s Austin Antillon from behind to earn his side’s first booking.

The Wolfpack responded strongest as the game’s intensity ratcheted up. A 3-pass exchange down the right involving Collins, Minaie and Foxe eventually saw the ball rolled inside to Antillon. With 3 minutes remaining until halftime and players ahead of him, Antillon decided to have a go. His shot was straight and true, and arrowed into the top left corner of the net from 30 yards.

Claremont went into the break tied 1-1 with South Hills. Coach Bruce-Oliver noted that his team “chased the game a bit too much during the opening exchanges, but once they settled down played some quality possession soccer.”

Just after the restart, Iwasaki got the ball 25 yards out with nothing on. His shot was tame, but keeper Serabyn was unable to corral it. Iwasaki’s second goal gave the Huskies a 2-1 advantage, and was Serabyn’s only mistake of the night.

Claremont increased their margin of possession over the next 20 minutes, with Cameron Lorek cutting in from the left and smashing a goal-bound shot that was saved by goalkeeper De Anda.

Claremont’s Jason Umansky then picked up a flick-header and closed in on the goal only to be dragged down from behind by Jonathan Reyes, who earned the Huskies’ second yellow of the game.

Then came the most controversial play of the match. South Hills’ Suarez made a run past Claremont’s back line and was called offside. But while chasing the ball, Suarez slid into substitute goalkeeper Bryan Landgreen with his cleats showing, leaving Landgreen rolling on the ground. The referee inexplicably took no action, but yellow-carded Claremont’s coaching staff for complaint.

Again, Claremont responded well to the increased physical nature of the game. With 10 minutes remaining in regulation, Santia won the ball in an advanced position and slid a delightful reverse pass through to Collins. Collins deftly rounded the onrushing goalkeeper and tucked the ball into the net to tie the score at 2.

In a change of rules, the Sierra League voted this year to instate extra time during league matches. So after 80 minutes of dogged play, the Wolfpack ran back out to play an additional 20. The winning goal was a craft of beauty. Only 3 minutes into extra time, O’Reilly-Hahn won a sliding tackle in his own half. After 5 quick passes, Foxe received a low cross on the edge of the 18-yard box. He fired a shot that looked to be going wide. Fortunately, Santia was there to redirect home from close range, and Claremont held off subsequent Huskies chances for the win.

Next up is a match against Damien.

The Spartans are coming off a 3-1 victory over Ayala, and have outscored their last 3 opponents by a combined 12-1.

“We have been playing a lot of games and really need the rest, so we probably will not practice after this one,” Coach Bruce-Oliver said. “The culture and expectation of winning means that our team must perform at the highest level each time they are out there. Damien will be a true test.”

Claremont’s record stands at 7 wins, 6 losses and one draw, but this was the Pack’s 5th win in a row.

—Christopher Oakley


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