Kiski Area perseveres, beats Belle Vernon in shootout to advance
Before Monday night’s matchup with No. 10 Kiski Area, Belle Vernon boys soccer coach Rob Miele said he thought his team was facing an evenly matched opponent in the Cavaliers.
It showed after two scoreless halves and a pair of 15-minute overtime periods that saw the two teams fail to score as the Cavaliers topped the seventh-seeded Leopards, 3-2, in a shootout to claim the WPIAL Class 3A first-round win at Belle Vernon’s James Weir Stadium.
“I know you can’t play forever, and I told the guys before that whether we win or lose I was proud of them regardless,” Miele said. “It’s just tough. I hate it because it’s just so much different than the real game.
“We had some chances and missed opportunities -- as did they. We played 110 minutes, and it was still scoreless. It’s a tough way to go out for sure.”
Each team selected five players for the shootout with Belle Vernon Area’s Markello Apodiakos leading it off.
The senior standout missed wide right before Kiski Area goalkeeper Nicholas Smith was sent out first for the Cavaliers, beating BVA keeper T.J. Watson to his left to make it 1-0.
Daniel Sassak scored with his left foot to tie the shootout 1-1, and Owen Anderson missed wide left to keep it all knotted up.
Niko Apodiakos and Gregory Paes scored for their respective teams to make it 2-2, and Hunter Martin and Ronald Coleman missed on their opportunities.
Aaron Brown was the fifth shooter for the Leopards and barely missed giving BVA a 3-2 advantage as Smith made a diving save.
Tyler Cuica was handed an opportunity to win the game and didn’t waste it, beating a diving Watson to his left to send Kiski Area to the WPIAL quarterfinals to face West Allegheny.
Smith, who made saves on Martin and Brown in the shootout, finished with 10 saves and a shootout tally and nearly scored on a free kick from around the 50-yard line with less than 10 minutes left in regulation.
“It’s really difficult mentally and physically, but our goalie (Nicholas Smith) is one of our leaders and he led by example,” Kiski Area coach Sean Arnold said. “He made the first penalty kick and came up strong saving two of them. He helped out with that mental strength that we needed.”
In terms of possession and scoring opportunities, Belle Vernon Area dominated most of the contest.
The Leopards finished with 19 total shots compared to eight for Kiski Area.
The Cavaliers were held without a shot in the two overtime periods, and BVA had two: one on a shot by Brown that went wide left of the net and another on a Sassak blast that was saved by Smith.
“I thought their goalie was the difference, and I thought T.J. (Watson) played clearly his best game of the year,” Miele said. “We knew (Smith) was a difference maker before, but then you get on the field and see it and it’s a little different.”