After battling a gusting wind and each other for 100 minutes, the Shenendehowa and Bethlehem boys’ soccer teams finished right where they started Saturday.
Ricky Grable headed in the tying goal with 3:30 left in regulation for Shenendehowa for a 1-1 tie as both teams went to 6-0-1 atop their respective divisions in the Suburban Council.
“I saw Drew get away and play the ball in. At that point in the game, I just wanted to put something in,” said Grable, who outmaneuvered his mark and got his head to a cross from Drew Lewis.
“Ricky has the uncanny ability to make those near post runs. He did it several times last year, and that’s what I was hoping for,” said first-year Shenendehowa head coach Jonathan Bain, who inherited a club with little returning experience from last year’s state Class AA semifinalist team.
Bain started five 10th graders and just two seniors — Grable and Mark Rakowsky — against the Eagles, who lead the SC South.
“They did OK. They’re not playing like sophomores, but they’re not playing like juniors and seniors yet,” Bain said of a group of players that has helped the Plainsmen to the top of the SC North. “They’re making that transition.”
Shenendehowa opted to take the wind in the second half, and nearly got out of the first 40 minutes scoreless. Bethlehem’s Zack Stryker scored on a well-taken shot from the top of the box 6:40 before the half.
“He had a great strike. It was a great hit,” said Eagles coach Phil Ridgway, who saw Stryker join his team’s injury list soon after.
“He’s been struggling with an ankle injury, then he got whacked in the other ankle,” said Ridgway, who was without Ethan Strauss and lost midfielder Austin Lang to an injury early in the game. “We have a lot of injuries. I really tested the bench today, so, hopefully, we can keep our guys healthy.”
Both coaches admitted that the wind made a difference in the style of play.
“The wind was a huge factor. Both teams, you could see, struggled when they were against the wind,” Ridgway said. “Everything is misjudged when you get those gusts that pick the ball up in the air.”
“In the first half, we were trying to play balls long,” said Bain. “They were having trouble with the way the ball hung up and dealing with it. I was trying to get them to play more to feet.”
“It was tough with the wind,” said Shenendehowa central defender Phil Barrett. “You really had to be careful judging the flight of the ball.”
Barrett, an 11th grader, has moved to defense from midfield, where his varsity experience is invaluable.
“I started playing center back on my club team because we figured that’s where I would be this year,” said Barrett who sees the progress the varsity newcomers have made as the season hits the midpoint on Monday.
“It’s a big adjustment,” he said. “The game is faster and more physical, but the sophomores are playing more like older kids every game.”
“This was a good game for them,” Bain said of his younger players. “It was emotional, it was a good match. Hopefully, this will help get the young guys more prepared for the postseason.”
Ridgway also liked the way his team played.
“It was a good test for us to see how we would react when we don’t have time and space to play,” he said. “They [Shenendehowa] close down very quickly, and it was a matter of what we could do when we were in those sitiuations.
“I wish we had not given up the goal in the air, but I was very encouraged about our play.”