Athens Ends Crestwood’s Season
LEHMAN TWP. — As the final buzzer sounded, Max Gariano stood on Lake-Lehman’s midfield logo for a few moments and got a hug from his coach, David McFarland.
The Crestwood boys soccer senior gave his team hope with his first-half goal in Tuesday’s state tournament opener. Gariano’s sixth goal of the postseason initially gave the Comets a brief lead and then kept them in an evenly-played match with Athens.
For much of the evening, it was anyone’s game to win. But Athens took it with goals in the final minutes of each half, leading to a 3-1 victory over Crestwood in the first round of the PIAA Class 3A boys soccer tournament.
“It was an amazing season overall. The best record in the school’s history,” McFarland said. “Obviously, we were hoping for more tonight. But, again, it stops in the first round. … That’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Athens (20-1) advances to Saturday’s quarterfinals and will play either Strath Haven or Mechanicsburg. Crestwood’s season ended on two goals that beat the buzzer.
With 3:37 remaining in the game, David Sheftic buried his free kick from close to 40 yards away to seal the Wildcats’ victory.
They played with a 2-1 lead all second half thanks to a nice play right before halftime. Three Athens players got a touch on the ball inside the box, and the last, Alex Rowe, scored the game-winning goal with 36 seconds on the first-half clock.
There wasn’t much separating the two teams before then.
Jessie Sumner brought Athens to a 1-all tie when he took a long ball from midfield, shielded it from his defender as he ran and fit a shot past the coverage and the keeper.
Gariano’s speed also let him put Crestwood (19-2) on the board. Midway through the first half he received the ball at the right wing and blew by his defender to convert a 1-on-1 opportunity.
“(Gariano) has been my captain for the last two years and an amazing leader off the field,” McFarland said. “We’ll definitely miss him next season, that’s for sure.”
But Athens shut down Crestwood from there, despite its best efforts.
A small scrum in front of the net resulted in nothing for the Comets early after halftime. Later on, Hubert Herrera’s long free kick got denied by the crossbar. The Comets reset and sent a promising cross into the box, but Gariano’s header went to goalie Joel Maslin.
Maslin also didn’t leave much to chance by catching a couple late free kicks and a corner kick.
“I think they were able to score on the opportunities they had, and we weren’t. As simple as that,” McFarland said. “We came out hard. We played well. We were able to score the first goal.”
Athens’ victory marked the sixth consecutive PIAA boys soccer playoff game that the Wyoming Valley Conference has lost; five were first-round exits
It’s a tough way to end a season, though it doesn’t erase what Crestwood’s senior class has accomplished.
Since 2015, the Comets have gone 50-8-3 in their WVC schedules and taken first in Division 1 the last two years. They reached the District 2 championship game in all four seasons and won three, including the last two.
Crestwood nearly had a perfect regular season and scored 116 goals this year. Gariano had the last — his 27th of the season — to give its seniors their first goal in three trips to states.
“I’m really happy and proud of the guys. This whole season has been an amazing achievement in itself,” McFarland said. “For the seniors who are graduating, I think a lot of good things are in front of them.”
FIRST HALF: Max Gariano (Cre) unassisted, 21:30; Jessie Sumner (Ath) unassisted, 12:18; Alex Rowe (Ath) unassisted, 0:36. SECOND HALF: David Sheftic (Ath) unassisted, 3:37.
SHOTS: Ath 7, Cre 6. CORNERS: Ath 3, Cre 2. SAVES: Ath (Joel Maslin) 5, Cre (Chris Smith) 4.
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