WPIAL Soccer Boys Class 2A Final
FINAL: South Park 1, Quaker Valley 0
Pittsburgh Soccer Now Coverage: Reporting – John Krysinsky | Photographer – Jared Todhunter
South Park defeated Quaker Valley, 1-0, in a tightly contested WPIAL Boys Class 2A title match at Highmark Stadium on Thursday night to capture its first Boys Soccer district title since 2014, and its fourth overall.
The Eagles (22-0-0) held its ground in the first half then started to assert themselves more in the final 45 minutes, and made the most of its chance in the 72nd minute, as senior forward Jack Ozimek headed the game winner on a long free kick from Kaiden Fischer.
“We created a little chaos in the box. That’s the playoffs, sometimes you’re not going win pretty,” South Park Head Coach Jon Cantwell said.
Quaker Valley controlled possession throughout, forcing the South Park to adjust to the flow of the match, finding their opportunities on counters, plus they opted to play more direct, and ultimately found their moment on a set piece.
In the case on the game winner, Cantwell said that his team will often opt to play quick restarts, but he thought that on longer free kicks, that Quaker Valley could be beaten.
Only moments before the free kick game-winner, Ozimek had to be helped off the field after coming down on an opponents’ foot. As soon as he could be subbed back on the field, he hobbled his way back into a tight, scoreless affair.
When Fischer lined up the free kick, the senior was looking for his fellow senior teammate who, at 6-foot-4, stood taller than anyone else in the middle of the box.
“Jack, he always finds a way to get under the ball, so I sent it in his area, and I was just so happy he got to it,” Fischer said.
— Devin Paschall (@dpaxchall23) November 3, 2023
Ozimek said that as the ball came toward the box, he lost it for a second in the bright lights, but still found a way to get to it.
“I wasn’t thinking about how bad it hurt, I was just thinking about putting that ball in for my team,” Ozimek stated.
For South Park, they finished the WPIAL season with a perfect 22-0 mark, and will now host a first round State Playoff match vs PIAA District 10 runner-up. Quaker Valley (17-4-0) will travel in the first round of the PIAA playoffs, taking on the PIAA District 5/9 winner.
Look for a more detailed game report and more of Jared Todhunter’s photos to follow later tonight/early Friday.
Post Match Reaction (South Park’s Jack Ozimek, Kaiden Fischer and Head Coach Jon Cantwell)
Look for a more detailed recap to follow.
45′ — QV ball to end line — cut back pass for Haas, who tries to sneak one through inside left post, but Hochendoner is there for the save.
50′ — QV Jack Karwoski on the right edge finds room to get shot off around a defender to inside left post, but again, Hochendoner is there for pretty routine save.
58′ — SP’s Caden Loveland gets to right side of box near endline — put shot on frame QV keeper Nathan Pribik
60′ — QV cross to near post find Jack Karwoski who heads it on target, but SP’s Hochendoner is there for another routine save.
63′ — two solid chances for QV within 20 seconds — from Jack Karwoski sending a liner from 18, then Cameron Diggins wins ball — gets behind defender but low shot attempt is stopped. SP keeper Hochendoner has been calm under pressure — making the routine saves.
72′ — GOAL – SOUTH PARK — Jack Ozimek Okimez RISES above the crowded box — and just barely gets a head on it and under the bar to give the Eagles the lead. It came on long free kick — from Kaiden Fischer.
74′ – Quaker Valley comes right back after the SP goal, with two chances from close range on far post side –and Eagles keeper Cooper Hochendoner with three saves to deny Bennett Haas.
75′ — QV’s Karwoski from 14 yards — and Hochendoner dives to his right to make a great save! Clean sheet still intact for South Park.
78′ — More pressure and Hochendoner continues to make saves and SP defenders block a few shots too.
FINAL — SOUTH PARK HANGS ON TO WIN WPIAL TITLE.
5′ — QV on the attack — possessing well early. First real chance comes when Anthony Veshio gets header chance from their first corner
8′ — SP finally gets forward — as Kaiden Fischer gets down right side — to end line. The senior forward who loves to work the wide spaces sends a very dangerous cross through goal box, but SP can’t get anyone on a run into box.
17′ — QV continues to keep pressure on — Bennett Haas sends one from 22 yards but South Park keeper Cooper Hochendoner is there to snatch the liner.
24′ — Great chance for South Park on the counter, as the Loveland brothers nearly hook up for the lead. Caden beats a Quaker Valley defender to the ball — then pokes it over to the right side where Cameron had space –pulled his shot wide right.
33′ — More of the same — QV with most of the ball — South Park defending well in the box, just blocked a couple of hard shots.
#1 South Park (21-0-0)
Head Coach Jonathan Cantwell | Roster | Twitter/X @sphsbsoccer_ | WPIAL Titles: 2005, 2006, 2014
How South Park got here: Top seeded and undefeated South Park defeated Yough, 2-0, then were pushed a bit by section rival, but found a couple late goals to overtake Keystone Oaks, 3-1 in the quarterfinal, and pulled away in the semifinals, winning 4-2, against a very talented Avonworth side.
#2 Quaker Valley (17-3-0)
Head Coach JJ Veshio | Roster | Twitter/X @qv_soccer | WPIAL Titles: 1985, 1991-93, 1996, 1999, 2012, 2016, 2019, 2021
How Quaker Valley got here: 10-time WPIAL champions Quaker Valley got off to a good start to the tournament, posting a 9-1 win against Jeanette on Monday, then beat Elizabeth Forward, 7-0, and came through in the semifinal round with a high scoring 4-3 win vs Shady Side Academy.
Sizing Up South Park vs Quaker Valley
This may be the match-up we’ve been waiting for a long time in the Boys Class 2A playoffs, and haven’t gotten.
Despite high seedings in recent years, Jon Cantwell’s South Park Eagles have struggled to reach the Finals, while Quaker Valley has been very successful in recent years, winning three WPIAL titles since 2016, to add to their all-time total of 10 district championships. South Park was last in the WPIAL Finals in 2014. Under veteran coach Cantwell, South Park has captured three total WPIAL crowns.
South Park always one of the best technically skilled teams in WPIAL boys soccer, also has plenty of size and speed, and have used it this season to post a perfect record against all comers, including Class 3A and Class 4A opponents. Kaiden Fischer — a non-stop, speedy winger/forward, is South Park’s leading scorer, with 17 goals in the regular season, but they boast strong back line and a solid midfield.
Having come into the playoffs as the highest-ranked team, it’s always possible that pressure can play it’s part with the weight of expectations on a favorite’s shoulders, but Cantwell was eager to set the record straight after his team’s semifinal win, noting that he and the team felt nothing of the sort.
“I actually think the opposite. I think we had some pressure last year, we learned a lot losing in the semi-finals a year ago… that was the message the whole postseason, don’t change how we play. We went a goal down here tonight, we went a goal down the round before… we needed some adversity, and I was really proud of the boys, they didn’t change how we play.”
Heading into the final South Park faces a very tough test in Quaker Valley, who have scored 20 goals this postseason, but Cantwell isvconfident that his team would be ready for the challenge:
“They look like, as always, they gave three great forwards, they rotate them in, so they’re always fresh and good 1v1 and they combine well. We’re just going to have to be solid in our defensive shape and take the moments that we have.”
Quaker Valley’s attack is led by Kiril Grin (14 goals), Nick Allen (13) and Bennett Haas (13). In the quarterfinal win vs EF, Haas scored four goals, while Grin had three assists, and in Monday’s semifinal triumph, Haas scored twice and Jack Karwoski had the other two goals.
“It’s the playoffs, sometimes the games are ugly, and you want to have a shutout, you want to have these perfect games, but at the end of the day, it’s about who has more goals than the other team. We saw some things we have to clean up… we’re just going to chalk it up to how this game went, and that’s OK,” Quaker Valley’s JJ Veshio, following his team’s semifinal win vs Shady Side Academy. “I want to recognize the entire team. I think in games like this it’s a full team effort. I’d prefer just to recognize the whole team”
Haas, who is deaf, and one of the youngest bilateral cochlear implant recipients shortly after he was born, was a guest on PSN’s Kids on the Pitch Podcast this week.
Additional Quaker Valley & South Park Coverage on PSN:
WPIAL BOYS CLASS 2A 2023 PLAYOFF RESULTS
Semifinal Round (Monday, October 30, 2023)
Final: South Park 4, Avonworth 2 PSN Match Recap
Final: Quaker Valley 4, Shady Side Academy 3 PSN Match Recap
Quarterfinal Round (Thursday, October 26, 2023)
South Park 3, Keystone Oaks 1
Avonworth 4, Belle Vernon 1
Shady Side Academy 3, Hopewell 1
Quaker Valley 7, Elizabeth Forward 0
First Round (Monday, October 26, 2023)
FINAL South Park 2, Yough 0
FINAL Keystone Oaks 2, Mt. Pleasant 1
FINAL Avonworth 4, McGuffey 0
FINAL Quaker Valley 9, Jeannette 1
FINAL Hopewell 4, Deer Lakes 0
FINAL Elizabeth Forward 3, Knoch 1
FINAL Belle Vernon 2, East Allegheny 2 (AET2 – Belle Vernon advances in PK shootout)
FINAL Shady Side Academy 3, Beaver Area 0
PIAA BOYS CLASS 2A TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
Tuesday, November 7 – 1st Round
South Park/Quaker Valley winner (Host) vs District 10 runner-up
South Park/Quaker Valley loser (Away) vs District 5/9 winner
Montour (WPIAL 3rd Pl – Away) vs District 10 champion
Saturday, November 11 – Quarterfinal Round
Tuesday, November 14 – Semifinal Round
Friday, November 17 – Championship Game
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