Shady Side Academy boys edge Deer Lakes to return to WPIAL title game
Prior to Monday’s semifinal with Shady Side Academy, Deer Lakes boys soccer coach Jordan Wiegand told his players the two keys to victory were outworking their opponent and finishing their chances.
The first key went well.
Deer Lakes worked the ball around effectively, kept possession for long periods and got the shot attempts it wanted. But the finishing side of the equation didn’t go the way the Lancers hoped.
When Shady Side Academy got a fortunate bounce in the second half, Max Farner made sure to capitalize on the opportunity.
Farner’s goal in the 48th minute held up, and No. 11 Shady Side Academy advanced to the WPIAL Class AA final for the third consecutive season with a 1-0 win over the No. 2 Lancers in the semifinals at North Allegheny.
The Indians (11-6-1) will defend their title in a rematch with No. 1 Quaker Valley. It’s the third consecutive season the two teams have met in the final. Deer Lakes (17-1-1) plays Charleroi in a consolation game Thursday at a site and time to be announced. The winner advances to the PIAA playoffs.
The Indians were the only team to force a draw against Section 2 rival Deer Lakes in the regular season.
Deer Lakes outshot the Indians, 11-5, on Monday, but could not find the back of the net.
“Tonight was one of the rare occasions that we put a zero up,” Wiegand said. “We haven’t done that all season. There was a lot that we could pick on, but at the end of the day we couldn’t finish. We had some good opportunities, but when you don’t finish you don’t win games.”
After withstanding a barrage from the Lancers in the first half, Shady Side Academy got its goal in the 48th minute. Wally Navid put a shot on net that was stopped by Deer Lakes keeper Jesse Greyshock, but the rebound took a wicked hop around two defenders right to Farner, who deposited it into the net.
“Max is about the most improved player over four years that I’ve been around in my entire life,” Shady Side Academy coach Ed Ellsworth said. “He deserves to have a moment like that.”
Before and after Farner’s goal, Deer Lakes had ample opportunities to get on the board.
The first one came in the ninth minute when the ball was worked to AJ Dorman in the box, but his shot from point blank range went wide. The Lancers generated four corner kicks in the first half, but each one was defended well by the Indians. Then, in the first minute of the second half, Dorman had a shot blocked in the box by two Shady Side Academy defenders and Ronan Renter’s rebound attempt was stopped goalie Zach Conti.
Conti split time in goal with Bruce David. David played the first half and then reentered late in the game, immediately stopping a prime chance from Ryan Butler.
David made eight saves and Conti made three.
“Bruce David and Zach Conti are two of the most selfless players on this team,” Ellsworth said. “They played half and half all season in every game. They have a great respect for each other, and they have a great respect for the legacy of this program, and they are part of something bigger. They both are not surprised when I do unconventional things.”
The game became chippy in the final 15 minutes with four yellow cards assessed. Ryan Rodgers was given a second yellow card and a red card in the 81st minute. Wiegand said part of it was because of his team being young and having to learn how to handle adversity, with nine of the 11 starters being underclassmen.
“I think that comes down to a very young team on a stage they’ve never been before,” Wiegand said. “Deer Lakes has never been in a semifinal. They are learning about how to react in crucial moments. We gave up possession left and right at the end of the game where it was very pivotal keep it. I hate to say it, but there were a lot of controversial calls too. It’s frustrating, but I’m not going to put the blame on anything other than the fact that we couldn’t finish.”
The Lancers have already made history this season by being the first team in program history to reach the WPIAL semifinals, and they can add to their historic run by clinching their first PIAA berth with a win on Thursday.
“As painful as this moment might be for the guys, they have to get over it,” Wiegand said. “We have to accept what happened tonight, wake up tomorrow and maybe be a little angry. But as soon as we get back to practice we have to look at film and keep getting better, because we still have games to be played.”