Southwestern Edges Maple Grove, 2-1, In West Division Showdown

Maple Grove keeper Sam Cummings makes a save. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

The undefeated Southwestern Trojans were given all they could handle from Maple Grove goalkeeper Sam Cummings, as well as the posts that surrounded him, on Dutch Hollow Road but still came through with a 2-1 Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association West Division boys soccer win Wednesday.

The Trojans (6-0, 3-0) will no longer carry the distinction of holding all their opponents scoreless, as they had done through the first five games of the season, but will continue to lead the way in the standings thanks to an early goal by Chase Stevenson in the eighth minute of play and another tally from Justin Morris with 18:30 remaining in the game.

The pair of goals carried the Southwestern offense along with a rally of shots, 13 in total on Cummings, as well as a pair of deep kicks that were rifled off the goalposts to no avail.

It was junior Jack Novotny who returned a glimmer of hope to the Red Dragons (5-1, 2-1) and their fans with just five minutes remaining in the game, as he capitalized on a penalty kick that was sent past the right side of Trojan goaltender Brandon Fardink.

In the end, despite a late goal and rush of enthusiasm for the hosts, it was the offensive dynamism of Southwestern that carried the day.

Southwestern’s Marcus Kautzman, left, feathers a pass in front of Maple Grove’s Elias Akl. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

“We’re playing terrific soccer right at the moment and we just have to improve every game,” said Southwestern coach Jason Deering after the win. “It’s a long road to the playoffs and every game is a learning experience. We just have to build off of every game and keep moving forward.”

Right from the get-go, it was clear why Deering’s team had yet to relinquish a goal on the season — they never seem to stop attempting to score.

Sophomore Markus Kautzman began the game with a cross over the box to Morris, who was only narrowly denied a shot by some strong defending, before moments later he was able to find Stevenson with a pass inside the 18-yard box that was denied again by the Red Dragons.

A free kick by Chris Allenson offered Maple Grove a crack at Fardink in the opening minutes, but the senior netminder quickly stifled a header opportunity for the hosts.

That pattern would continue for much of the opening 40 minutes, with the Trojans stacking opportunities on top of one another and the Red Dragons taking advantage of infrequent offensive chances.

“I knew they would be a tough opponent, but I also knew that we would be a tough opponent for them as well,” said Maple Grove coach Cara Abbey. “My guys played really hard today and I’m very proud of the way they played. We came in with a solid game plan and my defense is an experienced defense, and they came through for me. They did what I asked them to do today.”

It was a long ball sent up the field by Esteban Diaz that found the first lapse in Maple Grove’s defense, as Stevenson was able to corral the deep pass and split two defenders for an easy finish and a 1-0 lead.

While Stevenson was able to put them into an early hole, some of Maple Grove’s best chances at evening the score came moments after, with Nick Brown steaming down the left sideline before having his crossing attempt blocked.

That was followed by a pair of chances from Wyatt Chriest, with the first shot being tipped wide and the second finding Fardink squarely in the chest before trickling wide on a second-chance opportunity.

“It’s Maple Grove-Southwestern. It’s every game over the last few years, as long as I have been around the program. This game has been very very close,” Deering said. “It’s either a tight one-goal game or a tie or you know, always a close game. We play against each other and with each other all through the rest of the seasons, in travel and everything else. Guys have friends on both sides. We want to beat them and they want to beat us. It’s becoming a rivalry.”

The opening half wound down with more chances by Morris and Michael Cammarata, who was able to break through the Maple Grove defense with a spin move to set up a right-footed shot that was ripped to the left of the net.

The second half began much the same way as the opening period, with Bryce Deering rolling in a deep shot for Southwestern and Morris attempting a bicycle kick on a cross by Cammarata that was just a bit too low.

It was a good feed from Stevenson that offered Morris his best chance to score with 18:30 remaining, and the junior made no mistake by crossing up a defender for an open shot at the penalty line that was buried home.

Novotny’s penalty kick was made possible when Simon Olson feathered a pass up the middle of the field to Chriest, who was taken down inside the 18-yard box.

“The reason why we had that PK was because we had a breakaway and they got scared, so they got desperate in that situation, and those last five minutes I couldn’t have asked any more from my guys. They really stepped it up and they played hard,” said Abbey.

The Red Dragons’ best chance to even the game came off a throw-in with 3:32 remaining that did not result in a shot on goal. In the end, it was sophomore defenseman Kevin Ruhlman who had the last chance to even things up with his final shot finding the leg of a Trojan defender with minutes to play.

Fardink finished with seven saves, a total which had the potential to be higher if not for the blocking of his defenders.