Persistent defensive pressure and timely offensive execution propelled once-beaten Indiana to a 2-0 win over Valley in a soggy WPIAL Section 1-AA boys’ soccer match Thursday at Andy Kuzneski Field.
The second-place Indians, who improved to 6-1 overall and 2-1 in the section, play host to Ligonier Valley on Saturday afternoon.
“We knew Valley was going to be tough,” Indiana coach Todd Myers said. “We knew they had a lot of seniors and we knew they were good last year. But this was the best game we’ve played this year, by far. From start to finish, I was really proud of them. It’s a nice win and it feels good to get a shutout.”
Although the Vikings and Indians each played stout defense in the first half, each team generated a handful of legitimate scoring chances.
Valley midfielder Adam Hines squandered the first half’s most promising offensive moment when he misfired on an empty net with 3:55 to play in the half.
Hines corralled a long feed behind Indiana defender Michael McKelvy and took off alone toward Indiana’s net. Goalie Corey Denlinger recognized the dire scenario of the breakaway and opted to leave his net and attempt a high-risk slide tackle on Hines.
Hines narrowly evaded Denlinger, however, causing the goalie to upend a sprinting McKelvy. In the process, Hines broke loose and hastily booted a shot toward the net, only to watch it sail wide to his right and out of play.
The Vikings and Indians each recorded two shots on goal in the first half.
“My hats off to them because I think they were patient and they played fantastic defense, especially in the first half,” Myers said. “They didn’t give us many looks, but once we got that first goal, that opened up their defense and allowed us to create more opportunities.”
David Zimmerman put Indiana on the board first by flicking in a goal off a header from Cole Rosenberger on a corner kick with 29:26 to play in the match.
Garrett Sharp booted a line-drive corner kick to Rosenberger, who, standing near the back post, headed a feed to Zimmerman in front of the net. Posted up less than 10 yards in front of the net, Zimmerman whiffed on his first attempt before quickly regaining his composure and then chipping a perfect shot to the left of unsuspecting goalie Josh Noel.
“He always tries to hit it to the back post where I am,” Rosenberger said of Sharp. “Then I just try to win it out of the air. I had a good battle with No. 5 or No. 7 on their team, and I ended up hitting it back across the field. It fell right at David’s feet and he just stuck with it and put it in the back of the net like a pro.”
“I could see that he (Sharp) was going to hit it to the back post, so I was ready for it,” Zimmerman added. “I immediately tried to hit it, and it didn’t work out, so I just hit it again and put it in the back of the net.”
Zimmerman used his blazing speed to force a Valley error and set the table for Indiana’s second goal with 6:32 to play.
Zimmerman caught up to a long pass from Rosenberger while in stride along the left sideline. The junior midfielder didn’t slow down, racing toward the goal and prompting Valley defender Hunter Pacek to push him from behind, a miscue that resulted in an Indiana penalty kick.
But rather than allowing Zimmerman to take the kick, Myers requested that Rosenberger, a sharp shooter who specializes in penalty kicks, to take it. The junior looked left and fired right, utterly fooling Noel and putting a goal in the left side of the net to make it 2-0.
“Coach has always put me in those situations, and I love that he has confidence in me to make those,” Rosenberger said. “I feel like I owe it to my teammates to put our penalty kicks in the back of the net. It’s always a big boost for our team when we score those goals.”
“Our defense does a nice job, but this is the third penalty kick we’ve given up in four games,” Valley coach Andrew DeAntonio said. “You just can’t put yourself in that situation, especially when we’re trying to build off a couple looks. You just can’t do that and expect to win, and that’s clearly what happened.”
Denlinger, a senior, had five saves and notched his fourth shutout of the season.