Staples comes up just short at Xavier in Class LL boys soccer
PORTLAND -- As the seconds ticked down on the season in the Class LL state quarterfinals, Staples frantically pushed forward.
Trailing unbeaten Xavier by a goal, the Wreckers had one shot stymied on the doorstep with eight minutes left. Six minutes after that, a header missed the goal post by inches and bounced out of bounds.
Soon, there were no more opportunities. Time had run out.
Sophomore Joey Zacchia's goal in the 47th minute was all that was needed for second-seeded Xavier to eliminate No. 10 Staples, 1-0, Saturday at Oakwood Soccer Park.
"Soccer is a cruel game," Wreckers coach Dan Woog said. "These guys accomplished a hell of a lot more than anyone thought."
A win shy of their first state semifinals appearance since 2010, the Wreckers finished 12-6-2 after a season in which they graduated 12 seniors.
Xavier, meanwhile, notched its third straight 1-0 win off its SCC championship. Now 18-0-4 overall, the Falcons will face No. 2 Ridgefield -- a 2-1 winner over No. 6 Conard on Saturday -- at a date and site to be announced.
The Falcons struggled to produce chances early, but capitalized on a fortunate bounce with 33 minutes left to muster the match's lone goal. Senior Brendan Butler blasted a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar and directly to Zacchia, who rushed forward and headed the ball out of the reach of Staples goalkeeper Noah Schwaeber.
"At first I thought it was going in. It looked like it was going to chip the keeper," said Zacchia, who now has 15 goals this season. "It got a lucky bounce off the crossbar to me."
The Wreckers -- outshot 10-6 in the match -- produced their finest chances late in search of an equalizer. In the 72nd minute, senior Yousef Shahin played a cross in the box to Diego Alanis, who chipped the ball on net. Xavier goalkeeper Dan Miela, an owner of 14 shutouts this season, dove to his left to stop it.
"They had just as many chances as we did," Alanis said. "We got unlucky, we had a couple good chances as well. At the end of the day, we didn't score. That's why we lost."
The Falcons dodged another rush by Staples in the 78th minute when Gabe Pensak headed a ball just wide out of a scrum in the box off a set piece. The Wreckers, who maintained a slight edge in possession early and then late, failed to beat Miela, who recorded four saves.
"Staples, they came out the first 20 minutes with a lot of intensity," Xavier coach Brian Fitzgerald said. "They really pressured, pressured, pressured. And then the pressure just kind of gave way. We were able to start getting into our rhythm."
When the Falcons found their rhythm, they did enough to ground their upset-minded opponent.
"(Our players) did exactly what we wanted them to do. They played exactly the way we wanted them to play," Woog said. "They gave us a thousand percent. You can't ask for more than that."
The Falcons will look to run their winning streak to seven when they take on Ridgefield (17-2-3) in their first state semifinal appearance since 2007 (1-0 loss in penalty kicks to the Tigers). The Falcons, however, aren't focused on the lore of an undefeated campaign.
"We don't think about it," Fitzgerald said. "I know it's clichÃ© and everyone's like, `you're lying.' But we had four ties, we don't see it as undefeated."
Xavier 1, Staples 0
STAPLES 0 0--0
XAVIER 0 1--1
Records: Staples 12-6-2; Xavier 18-0-4
Goals: X -- Joey Zacchia. Goalies: S -- Noah Schwaeber (5 saves); X -- Dan Miela (4). Shots: S -- 6; X -- 10.