Sept. 8, 2016
Port Allegany opened its boys soccer season on the right foot last weekend, picking up a 1-0 win over Olean in the first round of Allegany-Limestone’s “Gator Cup” tournament before falling to the home team, 2-1, in the championship game the following night.
Not only was it the first time Port had ever beaten the Huskies, a Class B school, but it marked an even bigger milestone: The school’s 100th victory in the sport, something coaches Aaron Clark and Matt Lawton probably never even thought about when they began the program in 2006. The Gators won a single game in that inaugural campaign, but quickly established themselves as a team to reckon with in District 9, appearing in the 2013 Class A championship game during a still-running string of eight consecutive postseason berths.
“I guess it just means that we’ve had a lot of good athletes,” said Clark, who willingly endured a celebratory postgame Gatorade shower. “We’ve been lucky to get a lot of good soccer players. Some of those years were easy to coach; we’d set the starting lineup and then sit down.”
Brandon McCaslin netted the only goal of the contest against Olean on a penalty kick 20 minutes into the first half, and Josh Mealy and Adam Doan combined for 12 saves to secure the shutout despite being outshot 19-9.
“We played different tactically than what we typically try to play,” Clark explained. “Our players are used to being the team that sort of dictates the style; they’re used to playing a faster game where they control the ball. Olean is just so talented, they’re such a physical team, we focused on playing defense. We were trying to make sure every player was covering who they were supposed to. We were lucky enough that on one of our counterattacks, Brandon got tackled in the box and got a penalty kick, and he converted it.
“Honestly, the rest of the game was all about slowing it down. Olean was trying to play a faster game, trying to run up and down the field quickly. I thought the players did a really good job of frustrating Olean, doing what they could to aggravate and basically take them out of their game plan.”
Port struck first in Saturday’s Gator-versus-Gator final, with Mackenzie Elliott converting a direct kick just 1:14 into the game, but Allegany-Limestone’s Mike Wolfgang leveled the score with 14 minutes left in the first half and Dylan Talbot netted the game-winner midway through the second session to give the New York squad the win on its home turf. Conner Golley made four saves to earn the win in goal, with Mealy corralling five shots for Port.
“We had the same number of shots and more corner kicks, but it was still the same type of game where they possessed the ball more and we relied on our counterattack,” Clark said. “I don’t think we had quite enough in the tank to be able to stay with them.”
While he would’ve loved to bring the championship trophy home on the team bus, Clark was still pleased with his squad’s performance.
“I feel great about where the team is at right now,” he said. “I think I’d be hard-pressed to say that anybody we’re going to play in District 9 has the same combination of physical play, speed and skill on the ball. We’re going to play some really physical teams, but they’re not going to be as talented or as fast. We’re going to play some talented teams, but they’re not going to have the physicality. Both Olean and Allegany-Limestone had all three facets of the game.”
With Tuesday’s game at Ridgway pushed back to Oct. 3, Port opens its regular-season slate at home against Kane on Thursday before hosting ECC and Smethport next week.
Coudersport is the defending UAVSL North champion, and Clark expects them to be his team’s “biggest challenge” in the division again this year.
“I saw that they beat Bradford this weekend. Knowing what they’re bringing back, they’ve got a lot of talent on their roster, so I have to assume that we’re going to have a fight on our hands against them,” he said.
As for his postseason outlook? “Going into the league and district schedule, I think there’s really three or four teams at the top of the district. I’d like to think that we’re in that top three or four teams.”
PORT GIRLS THIRD AT BRADFORD TOURNAMENT
The Port Allegany girls soccer team came home from Bradford with a split in the Owls’ season-opening tournament over the weekend, dropping a 2-1 decision to Portville on Friday afternoon before blanking rival Smethport, 4-0, on Saturday morning. The Panthers went on to beat Bradford, 4-0, for the tourney title.
Autumn Buchsenschutz, the team’s leading scorer last season with nine goals, tallied once in each game, with Autumn Freer, Rylee Lawton, and Shaylee Caulkins adding goals against the Hubbers.
After hosting St. Marys on Tuesday, the Gators (1-1) are slated to travel to Wellsboro on Saturday for an 11 a.m. start, then play at Smethport next Monday.