BRIDGEVILLE – Nobody can accuse the Canon-McMillan boys soccer team of getting short-changed in the postseason.
The Big Macs did anything but mail it in after being saddled with the No. 13 seed in the WPIAL playoffs, instead winning four games to claim the program’s first WPIAL title and win another game in the first round of the PIAA Class AAA tournament.
But even after setting nearly every program record, Canon-Mac ran out of gas in the state quarterfinals and suffered a 3-1 loss to Upper St. Clair Saturday afternoon at Chartiers Valley.
“We did have a great year,” goalkeeper James Hathaway said. “I’m proud of everybody on the team. It just sucks going out the way we did, but I’m proud of everybody this year. Hopefully, next year’s senior year class will be able to keep everything rolling.”
Troy Kiernan and Ethan Dysert scored goals in the final 11:02 of the second half to lift the Panthers (20-2-1) into the PIAA semifinals Tuesday against Delaware Valley.
Canon-Mac (19-5), meanwhile, closed its season by playing four consecutive playoff games against Section 5-AAA rivals Upper St. Clair and Peters Township, winning three of them. Of the Big Macs’ 24 games this season, a third came against those two teams.
“We’re just glad we’re through,” Upper St. Clair coach Uwe Schneider said. “We don’t have to play anyone from our section again.”
Canon-Mac took a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute when Josh Kruczek – who had the only goal during a 1-0 win over the Panthers in the WPIAL final – scored after Nick Sodini slid a rebound that he corralled to his right.
That came two minutes after Hathaway, who had stopped penalty shots in each of his past two games, made a diving, one-handed save to his right.
Hathaway made a similar one in the 35th minute, but Kevin Muck finished the rebound to Hathaway’s left into an empty goal to tie the score at 1.
The Big Macs thought they surged ahead when Kruczek had a shot at an open goal, but Garrett Blake filled in for goalkeeper Joe Conlon – who dove and was way out of position – by stopping Kruczek.
“I thought we played great,” Canon-McMillan coach Larry Fingers said. “We scored an early goal. Had a couple of opportunities off of corners and set pieces. Josh Kruczek dribbled the keeper and had himself one.”
After Corey McCurdy’s free kick attempt with about 24 minutes left sailed a few inches over the crossbar, Kiernan scored on a header off a corner kick in the 69th minute. Dysert converted a feed from Doug Hapeman in the 79th minute for some insurance.
Canon-Mac finished third behind Peters Township and Upper St. Clair, suffering four one-goal losses during the regular season. But playoff wins over Central Catholic, Franklin Regional, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair delivered the program’s first WPIAL title.
The Big Macs kept the momentum rolling with a win over Peters last Tuesday, but by Saturday Canon-Mac’s dream season had come to a close.
“For a team that nobody expected anything from, I thought we had an excellent year,” Fingers said. “Winning WPIALs and coming from where we came from in such a short time was magnificent.”