Head coach J.J. Veshio knows what it’s like to be this far into the PIAA 2A playoffs, but that doesn’t make this journey any less special as his Quaker Valley Quakers advanced to the semi-final stages after a narrow 2-1 win over the Shady Side Academy Bulldogs in Montour:
“We’ve been here before, and two years ago we were here, so a lot of these guys were there, but it’s always special. You have to take a lot of pride in the fact that every single team is playing all year long, high-level players and high-level coaches. To be one of the final four in our league, this is what we play for, to be a competitor and to win at the highest level, and we’re there.”
The game-winner was particularly special as it came from defender Tanner Schultz, someone now used to finding the back of the net, but it gave Veshio the chance to point out that their progress has been a team effort, and that anyone can play a key role in taking them forward:
“You don’t want anyone to do anything that’s out of their wheelhouse, but sometimes you’ve got to be a hero, and sometimes on a play like that there’s a big scramble and somebody like Tanner who doesn’t have a lot of goals this season… but when he found his chance he buried it.”
How it happened
Having gone through a thrilling 4-3 encounter in the WPIAL semifinals, the early stages of the game played out as if we were going to have another. Both sides exchanged attacking possessions and some very good chances, but neither of them managed to find the all-important breakthrough in the opening period.
Quaker Valley had the slight edge on their opponents, with Bennett Haas controlling the attacking play and creating a few chances, but Noah Levitt remained strong on multiple occasions to keep things level, but needed the help of the post late in the half as Tanner Schultz struck the woodwork from close range at a corner.
In a rather controversial incident, Shady Side’s Paul Benec was given a yellow card that could possibly have been a red, dragging down Jack Karwoski as he was through on goal, however the referee deemed that he was both far enough away and had enough covering defenders to avoid a red, something that the Quaker Valley players were far from happy with.
Quaker Valley’s efforts would eventually pay off though. They were once again denied by the post as Kiril Grin’s header cannoned off the frame with Levitt beaten, but were rewarded with a penalty kick after Drew McKim was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box with Nick Allan keeping a calm head to slot the ball home and give the Quakers a well-earned lead.
The lead didn’t last long though as McKim made amends for his earlier error by bringing the sides level with a thunderous effort into the top corner from outside the box which left Nathan Pribik with very little chance of stopping it.
With the game entering the final stages and both sides searching for a breakthrough, it was Quaker Valley who got their noses in front as Schultz was once again left alone at the back post at a corner, and this time was able to punish the Bulldogs by firing into the roof of the net to give the Quakers a lead that they didn’t let go as they moved into the final four.
16 – Hugo Castellini’s shot from distance tests Noah Levitt
23 – Amir Awais pulls his shot narrowly wide after a scramble in the box
24 – Kiril Grin gives Noah Levitt a nervous moment as he flashes a shot across goal
32 – Jack Karwoski forces a save from Noah Levitt after Bennett Haas does well to win the ball back on the wing
38 – Tanner Schultz is unmarked at the back post from a corner, but hits the frame of the goal in the best chance of the half
54 – Paul Benec booked for dragging down Jack Karwoski
55 – Kiril Grin’s header hits the post with Noah Levitt beaten
56 – Drew McKim handles the ball in the area, Nick Allan converts from the spot
60 – McKim brings things level with an incredible effort from outside the area
68 – Tanner Schultz restores the lead for Quaker Valley by firing into the roof of the net at the back post
70 – Carter Turk flashes a shot wide after a mixup at the back
Post Match Interview with Quaker Valley’s JJ Veshio