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The Liberty soccer seniors will certainly remember their Senior Night. The lads were introduced, along with their parents. A good number of classmates and family was on hand to support them, as well.
In all, it was a very nice Senior Night.
It was nearly perfect.
The Minutemen nearly pulled off the unthinkable: an upset of soccer titan Jefferson Forest. Instead, the Cavs escaped with a 2-1 win on the bouncy, rugged Liberty field.
Things were looking up for the Minutemen after the two teams hit halftime knotted at zero. That lack of a score was due, in large part, to the superb play of goalkeeper Trevor Fox. The junior made six saves, many of which had the Cav attackmen pounding the turf in frustration.
" Trevor has really turned it on for us the second half of this season," said Liberty Head Coach Eric Seckman. "He really communicates from the back and has become very active off his line."
Liberty also dropped Lukas Bodenstein from the midfield to the backline. The German exchange student spent much of the first half tagging JF's scoring wunderkind Teddy Delledera. In fact, Bodenstein stuck to Delledera like salt to a pretzel.
Liberty's other defenders, IV King, Austin Roney and Cade Skalka, were supremely stout, as well.
JF finally broke the draw when the black and red came out afire to open the second half. Off a corner kick, Logan Merkle soared high above the madding crowd. He used his coconut to bash the airborne ball down hard into the turf, past Fox's feet and into the back of the net.
But 38:30 remained on the clock. Plenty of time.
With 22 minutes remaining, Liberty sharpshooter Rucker Shipp sent a cornerkick from the far side. It was sent out of bounds by a JF defender.
Shipp's subsequent corner, from the other side of the field, found the box, where it bounded about hither and yon.
Bradley Thomas showed his nose for exploiting an opportunity. The sophomore pounced on the loose ball, sending it past JF keeper Thomas Cavanaugh and a host of guys in red and black.
With overtime, and all of its uncertainty, looming, JF Head Coach Jedd Zaring loaded up his front line. He put three strikers up top: Delledera, Aaron Crance and Christopher Palazzi.
That's a dangerous trio, by any measure.
"It's nice to have a team that is tactically aware enough to make those changes," said Zaring.
It didn't take long for the gambit to yield a benefit. At the nine-minute mark, Delledera leaped over a Liberty defender and headed a ball directly into the path of a hard-charging Crance. A geometrist couldn't have lined up the pass more effectively.
Crance took the ball in stride and drilled a heart-breaker into the lower left corner of the goal.
After that, the steel curtain defense, consisting of Benjamin May, Pierce Saunders, Brian McConkey and Matthew Weakley, kept things on the boring side for Cavanaugh.
We were missing that final ball," said Seckman. "We could not find Rucker the ball in space and he had few opportunities.
"Credit Liberty," said Zaring. "They never quit."
The Minutemen finish up district play at 6-6. JF stands 8-1-2.