Southwestern Impresses In B-2 Win Over Akron

Southwestern’s Marcus Kautzman, right, tries to keep the ball away from Akron’s Tyler Whitbeck during Thursday night’s Section VI Class B-2 quarterfinal soccer game. P-J photo by Valory S. Isaacson

The second-seeded Southwestern Trojans felt they played one of their best halves of the season through the first 40 minutes of Thursday night’s Section VI Class B-2 quarterfinal against No. 10 Akron, but they went into the break leading just 1-0.

In the second half, the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association West Division champions were rewarded for their efforts.

Juniors Chase Stevenson and Justin Morris both scored a pair of goals in the final 40 minutes as Southwestern pulled away from the Tigers for a 6-0 victory at Charles A. Lawson Field.

“I think if we play like this for the rest of the season, we have a chance to go really far,” Stevenson said. “Playing together as a team, working together is amazing.”

The win sends the Trojans into Saturday’s 5 p.m. semifinal at Sweet Home High School against No. 6 Riverside, which upset No. 3 Wilson 1-0 on Thursday, thanks to Bawi Lian Khan’s goal in the 46th minute.

“I think our style is going to be tough,” Southwestern coach Jason Deering said. ” … Riverside is going to be tough. We’ve seen the teams that they’ve already beaten this year and it’s teams that we saw were going to be tough in Class B.”

Even though its lead was just a goal after the opening half, Southwestern seemed to be in total control of the game against Akron, dominating in the midfield and offensive end of the field as the Tigers rarely applied any pressure to the Trojans’ defense.

“I feel like we were playing really well. It could’ve been one or our best halves of the season, we just weren’t necessarily finishing,” Stevenson said. “We played together and worked together.”

The 1-0 lead came courtesy of sophomore midfielder Marcus Kautzman, who received a pass from senior midfielder Esteban Diaz to the right of the Akron goalkeeper, beat his defender along the goal line, and then scored his fifth goal of the season along the turf just inside the post.

“I think we were happy holding them to one goal, but we didn’t possess the ball at all,” Akron coach Robert Meek said. “We didn’t have any pressure on them so there was no way we could possibly win.”

After a quiet opening 15 minutes to the second half, the Trojans put the game away with a 20-minute outburst of goals.

The first came from Stevenson, who took Brandon Fardink’s 50-yard-plus goal kick, dribbled into the box, spun off his defender and scored with his left foot for his 20th goal of the season and a 2-0 lead with 25:01 remaining.

“It makes me ecstatic whenever he can get into the stat book,” Deering said of his senior goalkeeper. “Since losing his dad, we just love anything he does special like that.”

Less than three minutes later, Stevenson scored his 21st of the season as Morris lofted a ball into the box that Stevenson headed past the Tigers’ backup keeper for a 3-0 lead.

“When we are both in, we seem to work together and have a lot of chemistry,” Stevenson said of he and Morris. “It seems to get our offense going faster and stronger.”

A little more than three minutes after that, Morris found the goal column himself as he received a ball wide of the Akron net, dribbled in around the 10-yard line and beat the Tigers keeper for a 4-0 lead.

“Marcus (Kenline) is a four-year starter and he’s a backbone … makes a lot of saves for us,” Meek said of his senior keeper. “He’s a good player so we put him out in the field hoping that he could generate some offensive pressure, but that was all last-minute desperation stuff at 2-0, hoping that we could get a goal and get back in the game.”

With 14:15 remaining, Stevenson sent a free kick into the box that Morris headed on net, only to be turned away by the Tigers keeper. Without skipping a beat, Morris gathered his own rebound and scored the Trojans’ fifth goal of the night.

“If it’s not those two, it’s someone else stepping up and filling the net for us,” Deering said of Stevenson and Morris. “Those two, just working together some of the plays that they make, it’s fun to watch. It’s good soccer.”

With several substitutions in the game, Southwestern capped the scoring with 5:15 remaining as Diaz sent a ball up to freshman Max Vaughn to the right of the Akron keeper. Vaughn then shot far post from about 20 yards out and found his first goal of the season.

“It’s the midfield and their forwards that possess the ball and make things happen for them,” Meek said. “We tried a little bit in the second half to push a few players forward to get something going, but when you do that you open up some holes and gaps defensively.”

Now the Trojans will look to carry over their offensive prowess into Saturday’s semifinal against a Riverside team that has won 12 games this season, including nine via shutout.

“We know it’s not going to be an easy game,” Deering said. “It’s playoffs, anything can happen.”