The intensity was palpable as Manchester Valley and C.Milton Wright walked onto the field at Linganore High School to start the second half of their Class 3A state semifinal Saturday.
The two teams played to a draw in the first half, but a late goal turned the tide in favor of the Mustangs and led them to a 2-0 win.
In the 69th minute, the Mustangs (14-2-2) had a breakaway opportunity they finally capitalized on. Ryan Belfiore had the ball in the center of the field just inside the box and sent a pass to the left, where Brett Lindsey was waiting to bury the ball in the back of the net for the go-ahead goal.
“We knew coming in that C. Milton [Wright] was a good ball team and we knew tempo of the game was going to be fast,” Mavericks coach Andrew Harrell said. “Everybody’s got some nerves and we were hoping to settle down a little bit quicker than we did … we had a few good opportunities in the second half to put one in the back of the net, it just wasn’t there for us.”
Less than nine minutes later with just 2:31 remaining in the game Belfiore assisted on another goal, this time it was C. Milton Wright’s leader in goals Connor Appleby that finished a shot from the right side of the box. It was Appleby’s 14th goal of the season.
Up until the first goal, the Mavericks (14-3) held off the Mustangs at every step. Although the defense played well, it was senior goalie Griffin Potter whose 10 saves helped keep the game at a draw for nearly 70 minutes.
Seven of those saves came in the second half as C. Milton Wright’s offensive pressure intensified.
“I honestly couldn’t ask for a better defense, they stuck in there, and everyone makes mistakes, but they did their best and did what they were supposed to do and held them down,” Potter said.
Added Harrell: “When you have a senior keeper that’s been around the varsity program for a number of years he can get everyone settled down back there, everybody can look to him for some leadership, and we also have some other seniors and really good juniors on the back line that help us out as well.”
Despite coming up scoreless the Mavericks had a number of opportunities to get on the board, but nearly every time they were a shot away the ball would go off to the side and miss the mark. A number of shots inside the box were deflected by a defender or turned away by Mustangs keeper Ryan Miller as Man Valley came up empty time and time again.
Some of those opportunities came forward Grant Scibek, who finished the season with eight goals. Scibek is just one of the players who will likely be returning next season for Man Valley.
“Honestly it’s pretty hard to wrap your head around that we were in the game 0-0 with almost 10 minutes left and when they put the one goal in … we could see the change in the flow and we were done at that point,” Scibek said. “I think it’s going to help a lot next year because we have a lot of talent coming up … and we’ll definitely have a chance to go to states again.”
Goals: CMW-Brett Lindsey, Connor Appleby.
Assists: CMW-Ryan Belfiore 2.
Saves: MV-10 (Griffin Potter); CMW-5 (Ryan Miller).
Halftime: Tied, 0-0.