BROCKWAY — St. Marys and Punxsutawney had faced off just once this season prior to Wednesday’s District 9 Class 2A semifinal game between.
That game was in St. Marys on Oct. 13, as the Chucks dominated from start to finish, scoring five goals in both the first and second halves on their way to a 10-0 victory.
The No. 3 seed Dutch flipped the script Wednesday, scoring a pair of first-half goals and holding off a second-half push from the No. 2 seed Chucks on their way to a 2-0 win at Frank Varischetti Field.
“We knew that defense had to be our priority,” St. Marys head coach Russ Micale said. “That’s where it all began for us tonight, just making sure we keep their offense at bay.”
The Dutch head coach noted that sophomore Dylan Aiello made his first start of the season at center back and along with the rest of the defense and goalkeeper Jonathan Chamberlin kept Punxsy off the board for 80 minutes.
Micale said he was forced to change things around defensively as a couple of his defenders were out with injuries.
After being shutout in their last meeting, St. Marys’ offense got on the board less than five minutes in to the semifinal contest.
Vinicius Nunes delivered a pass to Nathan McAnany, who worked his way around a Punxsutawney defender and made a run towards goal.
Punxsy keeper Jacob Ebel charged off his line, while McAnany’s run entered the box under pressure from a Chuck defender.
McAnany was able to hold off the defender and get just enough on a shot, as the ball rolled past the keeper and inside the near post to put St. Marys in front 1-0 4:48 into the game.
Punxsy had a chance to draw the score even in the 23rd minute on a well-struck shot that was angling towards the post, but St. Marys goalkeeper Chamberlin made a diving save to turn the shot away.
With time ticking down in the first half, St. Marys looked to add to their lead off a throw in from McAnany.
The long throw went into the 18-yard box, as Nunes flicked the ball along with his head towards Jakob Meeker on the far post.
Meeker fired a hard shot towards goal, but the ball bounced off the near post and back into play as the Chucks defense cleared the ball away.
In the final minute of the first half, St. Marys earned a free kick just outside the box, as CJ McGowan sent the kick into the center of the box.
The ball bounced to Noah Crissman, who looked to put a shot on goal, but the ball was blocked by a Chucks defender.
The blocked shot rolled straight to Nunes, who took advantage of an open look on goal inside the 6-yard box to give the Dutch a 2-0 lead with just 24 seconds remaining in the opening half.
After trailing 5-0 at halftime in their last meeting, this time St. Marys took a 2-0 lead into the half.
In the second half, Punxsutawney had eight shots and earned seven corner kicks, but the Dutchmen’s defense stood tall and held the Chucks off the board to secure the win.
One of the Chucks’ best opportunities to cut into the lead came in the 69th minute, as a shot from near the top of the box looked to head inside the post, but once again Chamberlin was up to the task, making another diving save to preserve the shutout.
The sophomore keeper made six saves in the win to preserve a clean sheet and pick up the win in net.
“We came into this game knowing that we could win it and right from the beginning whistle it was evident that we came to play hard,” Micale said. “I am impressed with the guys, absolute team effort.”
St. Marys secured the win despite being outshot 14-10, while Punxsy finished with a 9-4 advantage in corners, but was unable to convert on any of the set pieces.
With the win, the Dutch advance to the District 9 Class 2A title game where they will face No. 1 seed Port Allegany, which defeated Kane 1-0 in the other semifinal contest.
That championship game will be played Monday in Bradford at 7 p.m.