CM, USC battle to a draw
Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Canon-McMillan's Jake Wilcox and Corey McCurdy celebrate after Wilcox scores on an assist from McCurdy in the first half of the game against Upper St. Clair. Tuesday night's game was the first time the teams met after last year's WPIAL Class AAA final.
CANONSBURG – There might’ve been some question as to how the Canon-McMillan boys soccer team would react to the losses of three-fourths of its defense and starting goalkeeper James Hathaway, who played so well in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game a year ago.
The Big Macs got their first real test by facing that same team they beat to claim their first title, Upper St. Clair, Tuesday night.
They performed admirably, particularly new starting goalkeeper Christian Snatchko, who fended off seven of the eight Panthers shots to earn Canon-McMillan a 1-1 tie in a Section 5-AAA match.
“The two best teams in high school soccer,” said Big Macs coach Larry Fingers. “Someone asked me about it before the game, and I said it was gonna be a battle, it was gonna be nasty.”
In a way, Canon-McMillan (1-0-1, 3-0-1) can consider the result fortunate, as Upper St. Clair (2-0-1, 4-0-1) dictated the run of play for the majority of the game. The Panthers, spurred on by midfielder Robbie Mertz, controlled possession in large spurts, but the Canon-McMillan back line held firm, not allowing a great deal of prime scoring chances.
It wasn’t until Upper St. Clair was awarded a free kick in the 59th minute from 25 yards out that the Panthers were finally able to break the Big Macs, as Mertz struck a beautiful free kick into the top right corner, a shot Snatchko had no chance to stop.
“I think we get out of here without a free kick,” Fingers said. “No keeper saves that. Robbie hit a great free kick.”
That tied the score at 1-1. Canon-McMillan had gotten the start it wanted just four minutes into the game when Jake Wilcox, who scored 10 goals last year, buried a shot that Upper St. Clair goalkeeper Will Petley got a piece of but not enough to keep out of the net. Wilcox has scored in every game this season.
But the Big Macs couldn’t build on that momentum and did not have another shot the rest of the half. In fact, Canon-McMillan finished with only four shot attempts, three on goal, to Upper St. Clair’s 13 shot attempts and eight on goal.
While Fingers and the rest of the Big Macs might be content with the tie, the same can’t be said for those on the Upper St. Clair side.
“You can’t be happy,” said Upper St. Clair coach Uwe Schneider. “We outplayed them for 80 minutes and didn’t finish our chances. They’re probably a lot happier than we are.”
The Panthers began generating more dangerous scoring chances as the game went on, forcing Snatchko into some excellent saves. Then Mertz struck the goal post just two minutes into the first overtime.
It wasn’t all Upper St. Clair, though. Canon-Mac’s Nick Sodini had a golden chance in the 93rd minute from point-blank range but could not get quite enough on the shot, and Petley was able to get just enough of the ball to push it wide.
The Panthers had one last chance in the final minute of double overtime, but Joseph Bell nudged a shot just wide.
“We only have ourselves to blame. If we finish our chances, this game is long over,” Schneider said.