Oct. 21, 2014, Boys Soccer The Steinert seniors and their parents line the field for Senior Day today (Photo by Mike Dill/see photos at http://www.michaeldillphotography.com). Watkins paces ND past Steinert but Spartans still win Valley Division title Tony Piscotta Fish4Scores.com Oct. 21: The Steinert boys soccer team dominated the majority of today's game with Notre Dame when it came to possessing the ball and keeping Notre Dame leading scorer Brian Hawkins contained. Except for two brief instances. Those instances made all the difference as the Fighting Irish scored twice in the first half and then withstood steady pressure from the Spartans in the final 30 minutes to win 2-1 on Steinert’s Senior Day. Despite the loss, Steinert still became Valley Division champs of the Colonial Valley Conference by day’s end, as Princeton defeated Hightstown to give the Spartans the crown. But they backed in thanks to Hawkins, who scored once and assisted on the Irish's second Chance Eggert gets the ball away from Notre Dame today goal. Senior goalie Steven Robak stopped seven (Photo by Nancy Eggert). shots in net for Notre Dame to earn the victory. The Spartans out-shot Notre Dame, 21-9 and had all six of the game's corner kick opportunities but scored their only goal on an Adrian Strama penalty kick. The unsung hero for the Fighting Irish was midfielder Brian Reilly — who was responsible for setting up Hawkins’ goal with a long ball from his own side of the midfield stripe — and was generally a thorn in the Spartans' side most of the day. "With Hawkins up there you've got to worry about him and then you have another guy that's going to the outside," said Steinert senior defender Mike Fornaro. "Reilly created a lot but they really didn't have many chances going forward. We really made two mental mistakes. That's all it was." Steinert had the game's first six shots, and seemed to be controlling the play, when the first of those miscues occurred in the game's 14th minute. "I thought we came out really strong the first 10, 15 minutes," said senior Brandon Rivera. "We started to die out after that. We took it to them in the second half. That's all we could ask for." Reilly, hit a long ball from in front of the Spartans bench on the defensive side of the field into the penalty area where Coby St. Phard ran down the ball and hit a cross into the crease where Hawkins jumped into space to finish the play; scoring his 21st goal of the year. "That goal should have never happened," said Steinert coach Todd Jacobs. "We had plenty of opportunities. Never should a ball have been played across the box. We left (Daniel Fayardo) wide open in front of the box. Hawkins just came in from behind so it was either one of them. He's a quick, crafty player." Fornaro felt that in trying to shut down Hawkins the Spartans may have hurt their own defensive form. "I think our problem today was we tried to stick a guy on him and follow him around." Fornaro said. "It didn't really work. It kind of threw our back line out of whack. And on that goal when we were coming across the back line we didn't have a guy — we had a left mid marking him instead of what would have usually been our left back. But our left back was marking someone else across the field. That's not how we usually want to play and it tore our back line out of what we usually do." The Irish scored what would prove to be the gamewinning goal with 5:59 left in the first half off a re-start from 40 yards out when Hawkins hit a ball into the area and junior Derek Czerniak was there to finish. Mike Fornaro tries to maneuver the ball away from Notre Dame's Ryan Blair (Photo by Nancy Eggert). "We had one guy come off a man to go in the wall and left a man open," said Fornaro. "That's how the second goal went in." The Spartans continued to apply pressure, recording 13 shots in the first half, but each time the ball was either wide or Robak was there to make the stop. Steinert had an excellent chance to cut the lead in half with Strama lined up for a re-start from 35 yards out in front of the net with 15 seconds left in the half. But Robak saw the ball all the way and made the sixth of his six first half saves to keep Steinert off the board. "Notre Dame is a tough team to figure out," Jacobs said. "I felt like we had the better of the play for most of the game. The second half we definitely had the better of play and we had some opportunities to get there." The Fighting Irish seemed more content to defend and protect the lead in the second half and for a time it looked like that strategy might not work. Fornaro went down inside the penalty area in the 53rd minute and Strama, after re-tying his shoes, drilled a ball high into the right side of the net for the PK goal. It was his second in as many games. "I think if I didn't have the ball under control it wouldn't have been a foul," Fornaro said of the play. "But the way I had the ball I had one touch on a shot so when I got fouled it had to be a PK no matter what." Despite dominating the rest of the game, the Spartans were unable to get that one finish past Robak. "That gave us a lot of motivation going forward that first goal that we got," said Rivera, who along with fellow senior Joe Helmlinger and junior Anthony Remboski had several opportunities. "We were still in the game and that's what really pushed us." The Fighting Irish, with senior Keegan Lago anchoring the back line, would not buckle. "They're a good team," said Fornaro, when asked about the defending Mercer County Tournament champs. "They have a lot of experience on that team. They played in a lot of tight games this year because everybody's coming out and trying to beat them. I'm sure they're used to it. They're used to the pressure and they responded well to our pressure." Jacobs feels that things could have easily gone the other way. "In the end, we bury a couple of those shots, I think we had some open looks, we're maybe winning this game by two goals," said the Spartans coach. "We had plenty of opportunities once again. We just have to find a way to get these shots on goal. If we do that we might have saw a different Notre Dame." While the loss was a tough way to finish their regular season for the 11 Steinert seniors, particularly on Senior Day, the fact that they went toe-to-toe with the Fighting Irish (12-3-1) is a good sign heading into the Mercer County and Central Jersey Group 3 tournaments. "A little bad luck and sometimes we weren't getting there but overall we were getting a lot of chances," said Rivera, who is already looking focused to Saturday's MCT opener against Nottingham. "We're looking forward to Saturday's game," said the senior attacker. "We're going to come out strong and we're going to get that win. Fornaro said that with all of the work his team put in in the off-season this group is close knit and ready to take on the upcoming challenges. "I wouldn't say it takes pressure off us because we felt we should have won this game and it's disappointing fur us," he said, when asked what effect today's game would have. "We need to go out and we want to win the state tournament. We want to win the county tournament. We're not hiding that. That's our goal. Everyone's just really dedicated this season. We know we have a chance and we're doing some stuff to win." Nottingham suffers another one-goal loss It’s just like a bad Groundhog Day movie for Nottingham. The Northstars dropped their seventh one-goal game of the season, falling at West WindsorPlainsboro North 1-0 on goal by Chris St. Amour. Liam Nouvel and Jacob Page each split four saves in goal for the Northstars (3-11). WWPN moved to 8-4-2. Hornets fall to Trenton Hamilton got goals from David “DD” Denot and David Kline but it wasn’t enough as the Hornets suffered their sixth straight loss, 4-2, at Trenton. Hamilton (3-12) is back in action Friday with a 3:30 Mercer County Tournament game at Princeton. Trenton improved to 6-7-1.
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