Both Port United varsity soccer teams went unbeaten in last week’s action, with the Gator boys (6-1, 3-0 UAVSL North) chalking up a big win over St. Marys while the girls climbed back to the .500 mark (3-3, 1-1 UAVSL North).
Elk County Catholic 3
Howie Stuckey netted his third hat trick of the season and Simon Burleson scored twice, including the game-winner with four minutes left in the game, while sophomore Port goalkeeper Ty Shields made 11 saves to earn the win.
“For the first 40 minutes, we played blah soccer, and it was tied 2-2,” Gator coach Aaron Clark said. “We got a 2-0 lead, we let down, and ECC came back and tied it. We picked up the energy in the second half and sort of blew the game open, if you can call it that. We controlled the ball and dominated possession, outshot them for the most part.”
Port 10, Northern Potter 1
Shawn McNeil (assist), Burleson (assist), and Stuckey each netted a pair of goals as the Gators jumped out to a 6-1 halftime lead. Ben Lawton scored his first varsity goal and A.J. Edgell (assist), Aidan Emerick (two assists), and Jordan Card (PK, assist) also scored, with Guilds and Jesse Wright each adding a helper. Guilds recorded seven saves, with backup keeper Caden Roys adding two more stops.
Port 4, St. Marys 3
The rematch of last year’s District 9 Class AA final, won 4-1 by the Dutch after Port striker Noah Costa was sidelined due to injury, looked like a Gator blowout in the making for the first 60 minutes of play. Stuckey gave Port the lead just over a minute into the game, making the visitors pay for a misplayed ball by the defense, and Edgell buried the rebound off a Wright corner kick to make it 2-0 at the break. Port struck again early in the second half as McNeil finished off a feed from Burleson just 46 seconds in, and when Stuckey deked the St. Marys keeper for an easy score and a 4-0 lead with 16:05 left, most of the Moose Park crowd likely assumed the game was well in hand.
That’s when Vinicius Nunes went to work. The dangerous Dutch striker needed just over seven minutes to rack up a hat trick, pulling his team within 4-3 with 7:33 remaining, and suddenly the Gators were scrambling to run out the clock before St. Marys could net the game-tying tally.
Port needed every one of Guilds’ 14 saves, including a short-range stop on a Nunes bicycle kick in the first half.
“Far closer than it ever should have been. Lack of focus,” Clark said. “We came in with a gameplan, and for 60 minutes we played the gameplan fine, we did a good job. I don’t know if they got overconfident once it got to 4-0, but I do think that they didn’t play a full 80-minute game. Once we got to 4-0, the gameplan fell apart for a little while, and (Nunes) ran roughshod over our team.”
Of Guilds’ performance, he said, “He made some great saves. He’s much further along than we expected. We knew he’d make some mistakes and let a few in (as a sophomore first-time starter). His defense has helped him at times but he’s been working hard in some of these games. He’s starting to make more of the acrobatic saves and not just the easy ones. I thought his save on Nunes’ bicycle kick was huge.
“I didn’t expect him to have three clean sheets by this time of the year. He was a big reason why we won today.”
The victory gives Port a one-game lead over second-place Kane in division play, with St. Marys and Coudersport a game behind the Wolves in the win column.
“For the league, it’s huge,” Clark said. “I believe that St. Marys is going to be the biggest threat in the league to us, and getting this first win against them is gigantic. It creates a little bit of breathing space, although we still have Coudy that we haven’t seen, and they can’t be overlooked. That’s an emotional rivalry game; even if we’re better than them, their emotions can carry them a long way.
“As far as the district in Double-A, our goal is to stay opposite of Punxsutawney (in the bracket). We can’t control anything that Punxsutawney does because we don’t see them, but we figure we’ve got a couple-win lead on them, if we just take care of our business, we can keep them behind us and guarantee we won’t see them until the finals. I think they’re going to be the most dangerous team in Double-A, other than us.
“We see something every game that we need to keep working on, and one of the big themes is just effort, game in and game out. Once we get that full 80-minute game in, I think we would be hard-pressed to be beaten in most of our matchups.”
Port is on the road twice this week, traveling to Coudy on Sept. 17 and Kane on Sept. 19.
NEXT WEEK: Northern Potter, Sept. 26.
With a rugged stretch of road games against large-school teams in the books, Port is beginning to pick up some momentum against teams in its own class.
Port Allegany 2, ECC 0
With Emma Fox and Cailey Barnett each scoring a first-half goal, the Gators blanked the Crusaders as Brielle Budd made four saves to earn her second consecutive clean sheet.
Port Allegany 2, Kane 1
It was Fox and Barnett again for the Gators, with Budd stopping seven Wolves shots to secure Port’s third win in a row.
How did coach Tony Edgell keep those early-season losses from demoralizing his club?
“(I) reminded them we didn’t have any scrimmages,” he wrote via text message, “and that we won’t see those teams again. Then I reminded my returners how much better we play schools our size.”
Port (3-3, 1-1 UAVSL North) has three games on tap this week, finishing up its marathon season-opening road swing with a visit to Eisenhower before hosting St. Marys and Ridgway on back-to-back afternoons.
NEXT WEEK: No games scheduled.