SILVIS — After being frustrated for 80 minutes against United Township, the Geneseo boys soccer team found what it needed to remain unbeaten in overtime.
The Maple Leafs got goals from Hunter Clark-Holke and Hayden Curcuru in extra time to knock off the Panthers, 2-0, in Western Big 6 Conference action at The Panther Pitch.
Clark-Holke scored from 25 yards out on a free kick, one which he earned, in the 88th minute, and Curcuru added the second two minutes later after he put back a rebound of a shot from Conner Nelson that hit the post.
Up until then, the Maple Leafs had put 13 shots on goal during the game, but many of the chances were interrupted at the last second by gusty winds or a ball that would not settle on a rather bumpy natural grass surface.
Maple Leafs coach Harvey Morton said he was glad his team was able to overcome not just stingy defense from the Panthers but the elements as well. Geneseo improves to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in conference.
“Those were tough conditions but (United Township) had to deal with it as well,” Morton said. “You also have to give credit to UT, they played hard and they don’t perform like a team that does not have a win. But we did a good job of creating those opportunities, we just have to finish better in front of the goal.”
Geneseo had four shots on goal in the first half. They did, however, have six corner kick opportunities, but it seemed on those corner deliveries, the wind would move and carry the ball away from the attacking players.
If it wasn’t the wind, longer ground passes seemed to bounce along on the surface making it hard to read with the players’ first touches. Clark-Holke, who had a solid game in the midfield as well as his attacks, said many times to dribble up the field, you had to use your shins and knees just to control the ball.
“You just have to do your best, both teams, to control things. When balls are bouncing everywhere, you got to do what’s needed,” he said. “It was hard to play through balls because you were not sure where the ball might go.”
The visitors’ best chances in the first half came in the 21st and 26th minutes when Ethan Holke made two fine centering passes to Matthew Daly at the top of the penalty box, but the jittery ball did not allow Daly solid contact on either attempt.
United Township (0-6, 0-4) had some fine offensive runs from Abdelakim Baba-Traore, Yahir Garcia and Chan Nawl in the first half, although the hosts only had two shots on goal.
Geneseo stepped up the pressure in the second half while Clark-Holke, Holke, Nelson and Curcuru continued to make good offensive runs, but every time the Leafs got in the box, the final play was just out of reach.
Things turned in the 79th minute when the Panthers lost starting goalie Ismael Hernandez to injury when he collided with Holke going after a loose ball in the box. Hernandez limped off the field with what appeared to be a left leg injury. Sergio Garcia replaced Hernandez, who had eight saves for the game, in goal.
Eight minutes into the first overtime session, Clark-Holke won a free kick directly in front of goal from 25 yards out. His blasted ground shot got around the Panthers’ wall and found the left corner of the goal.
“I saw where they lined the wall up, there was little bit of a gap (on the right side),” Clark-Holke said. “I tried to put a little spin on the shot and find the corner, and that’s what happened.”
Two minutes later, a 30-yard attempt from Nelson got past a diving Garcia but hit the right post. However, the rebound came back into play and Curcuru had the easy finish on the doorstep of the goal.
United Township’s best chance in overtime came in the 93rd minute when Masrour Gani’s centering pass from the wing found the head of Devin Gordan eight yards in front of goal. But Gordan’s header did not get through the traffic in front of the net.
“That’s a tough situation for Sergio to come into right away and face that pressure,” Panthers coach Phil Weaver said. “Maybe if he is in there for 20 minutes before, it might be different. The team played hard, but we have to keep making improvements each game.”