A little over three weeks ago, during the middle of the regular season, Glenelg was shut out by Atholton while playing one of its worst games of the year. On Friday night, in the opening round of the 3A East region playoffs, the Gladiators flipped the script and played one of their best.
Glenelg junior Nick Stamatakis scored twice in the second half, breaking open a tie game and providing the separation needed to earn a 3-1 victory over the visiting Raiders. It was the fourth consecutive win for a Gladiator team that now advances into a match-up against top-seeded River Hill on Tuesday.
“I would say some of today was pride (after the loss last time), but honestly, more than that, I think we are a new team,” Glenelg coach Andy Shearer said. “With some of the changes we’ve made, some of the guys we’ve brought up and promoting a new attitude, we’re not the same team that played Atholton the first time.”
Stamatakis, whose breakout offensive performance helped the Gladiators set a new season-high for goals, said there was almost a feeling like he and his teammates had something to prove.
“I think, after the disappointment of last time, some of us were actually excited to play them again and get a shot at retribution,” said Stamatakis, who was playing his first game back after missing the end of the regular season because of a concussion.
It didn’t take long for it to become obvious that this meeting between the Gladiators and Raiders was going to be much different than the first. After managing only one shot in the first half during the regular season match-up, Glenelg managed three quality ones in the opening 10 minutes this time around — one of which was a rocket off the crossbar by Jack Day.
Midway through the first half that pressure paid off on the scoreboard, as freshman Ramzy Ahmed collected a bouncing ball at the top of the box and fired it into the right corner of the net. The last time the two teams played, Ahmed was still on JV.
“We’ve been giving opportunities early in games to guys that maybe weren’t getting opportunities earlier in the season and they’ve really been responding,” Shearer said.
Atholton, meanwhile seemed to struggle making the transition from their turf field to Glenelg’s grass surface.
“Taking nothing away from Glenelg, they’ve been playing extremely well and they played a great game tonight, but this kind of field really takes us out of our game,” Atholton coach Roch DeFrances said. “We like to play on the ground and this forces us to play in the air.”
After surrendering that first goal, Atholton did settle in. Seven minutes after Ahmed’s score, the Raiders tied things back up on a goal by Joe Tolson off a feed from Dylan Royalty.
The game went into halftime tied at one.
But Glenelg regrouped during intermission and came out fired up once again to start the second half. This time, thanks to Stamatakis, the Gladiators were able to issue the knockout punch.
“One of our weakness a lot of this year has been coming out in the second half and not playing as well, but today we did the exact opposite,” Stamatakis said. “I thought we played one of the best halves of our season in the second half today.”
With 29 minutes left on the clock, Stamatakis took a through ball from Brady Chick and slipped it into the net for a 2-1 advantage.
Then, late in the game, as Atholton was pushing everyone up for the equalizer, the Gladiators got their insurance goal on a breakaway by Stamatakis that was set up by Amanuel Rizk’s long clearing pass.
During the regular season, Glenelg lost to River Hill 2-1. The Gladiators are hoping they can reverse that decision as well when the two teams square off in the next round Tuesday.
“We’re playing the best we have all season and it’s at the perfect time,” Stamatakis said. “We’ve definitely got our confidence back.”
Glenelg 3, Atholton 1
Goals: G – Stamatakis 2, Ahmed; A – Tolson.
Assists: G – Chick, Rizk; A – Royalty.
Saves: G – Haussler 7; A – Bathras 6.