SHEFFIELD — Score early, get excellent goalkeeping and have your defense in the right place at the right time. That’s the recipe for winning soccer. On Tuesday night, Brookside had all of the needed ingredients.
Steven Horvath’s goal in the 20th minute proved to be the game winner as the Cardinals held on for a 1-0 win over Keystone in a Division II sectional match.
It is believed to be the first postseason win in the history of the Brookside (8-9) soccer program.
While Horvath’s goal, which he scored off an assist from Mitchell O’ Connor by taking a pass on the left side of the penalty box, dribbling between two defenders and firing a shot into the upper right corner of the net, got the Brookside fans up and cheering, the best was yet to come.
In the 28th minute Brookside goalkeeper Kenny Pierson made the save of his career by diving to his left to stop a Collin Fitzgerald penalty kick. With the prospect of the game being decided on a penalty kick always looming come tournament time, Pierson said he spent much of Monday’s practice defending penalties.
“I was really nervous but I was also very focused and I knew he was going left because I could read the way his hips were moving,” said Pierson, who made nine saves in the win. “I took about 75 penalty kicks in practice and a lot of them were going in. I started to get down on myself but it turned out to be really good practice.”
Keystone (4-11-2) spent most of the second half in attack mode and if not for the heroics of Brookside center back Jacob Burian the Wildcats may well have emerged victorious.
Early in the second half Burian was perfectly positioned on the far post when Fitzgerald one-touched a Turner Giesel corner kick in the direction of the Cardinal goal. Burian did not have to move to make a save as the ball bounced off his legs and out of harm’s way. Six minutes later Burian saved the day again getting his right foot on a ball that got behind Pierson and sending it sailing out of bounds.
“I knew they were going to try to sneak the ball past Kenny so I had to try my hardest to keep the ball out of the goal,” Burian said. “It feels awesome right now. We knew Keystone was hungry for the win but so were we and we wanted it more. Everybody on this team gave everything they could tonight to get this win.”
The Wildcats had opportunities throughout the second half but were continually turned back by the Brookside defense.
“That’s been the story of our season, not being able to convert our chances,” Keystone coach Andrew Gibson said. “I’m proud of my team we didn’t get frustrated, we fought to the end but it wasn’t our night. Collin Fitzgerald has been a true leader for our team and I just feel for him that he could not get the ball to bounce his way one time tonight. Give credit to Brookside, they have some talented athletes over there. They are starting to put together a nice program.”
After the game, Horvath, a junior, talked about the emotions he felt during the match.
“When I saw my shot go into the goal happiness ran through my mind. It was so exciting to look up at the scoreboard to see you’re ahead 1-0 in a playoff game,” said the junior forward. “Our defense performed so well but there were a couple of times I was scared watching them and on that penalty I was just praying Kenny would make that save. It was an incredible game for us.”
On Saturday the Cardinals will travel to Bay to face a Rockets team that finished the regular season with a 10-1-5 record. But for one night, Brookside coach Kyle Pohl just wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of his team.
“These boys are having a great time playing soccer and it’s awesome to see what they did tonight. We are going to enjoy this win,” Pohl said. “Kenny was huge tonight to see how he improved from the beginning of the season to now stopping a playoff PK. Hopefully we can keep building off of this. The kids played a great game and we had a nice crowd. It was fun to be a part of this.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.