COLUMBUS , Ga. — For the first 65 minutes of Wednesday’s soccer match at Woodruff Farms, the Aquinas Fighting Irish pretty much had their way with the Pacelli Vikings, building a 3-0 lead and seemingly well on their way to the Class A state quarterfinals.
However, the end of the match was far from anticlimactic, as No. 5 Pacelli scored two goals in three minutes and just missed a third before Aquinas managed to hold on for a 3-2 victory in their second-round playoff match.
“All season long, our game has been to score first and we didn’t react well when Aquinas scored first,” said Pacelli head coach Mike Dempsey. “We recovered, but it was only after we’d given up three goals. We started putting things together in the second half, but we have to play the whole match like that if we want to win.”
With the win, Aquinas (5-8) advances to the state quarterfinals on Saturday, when the Fighting Irish will travel to face No. 6 Savannah Christian (11-2-1). Savannah Christian advanced by knocking off Brookstone, 2-1, in overtime Wednesday in Savannah.
Aquinas got its first goal in the eighth minute off a corner kick. After the service into the penalty area, Andy Do got a shot on goal and Liam Globensky jumped on the rebound and put it home to give the Fighting Irish a 1-0 lead. Nine minutes later, Adam Cundey made it 2-0 when he chested in a direct kick that was taken deep in the left wing of the Pacelli end of the field.
The third score - and perhaps the most frustrating one for Pacelli - came in the 21st minute, when Ben LeHatte stole a Vikings’ attempt to switch fields and promptly beat Pacelli keeper Nathan Schlies with a shot in the lower right corner of the net.
“It was good to put away the first few scoring chances we had,” said Aquinas coach Kevin Trammell, whose team is the defending Class A state champions. “However, we had some other chances in the first half that we didn’t score on and I think if we’d gotten just one more goal, we’d have put the match away.”
Still, Aquinas took a 3-0 lead into halftime and Pacelli had a large mountain to climb if it wanted to get back into the match.
The Vikings made some halftime adjustments and started producing more scoring opportunities, but it wasn’t until the 67th minute that Pacelli finally broke through. Matt Meyer arced in a high cross from the right wing and waiting on it was a wide-open Manuel Duran, who headed it home to get Pacelli back to within 3-1.
Two minutes later, the Vikings struck again. This time, Jose Samayoa got the ball at the top of the penalty area and from about 25 yards out, blasted a shot into the upper-right cormer of the net to make it 3-2.
Pacelli kept up the pressure, as Aquinas was back on its heels, and the Vikings had several chances to equalize. The best came in the 76th minute when a header off a corner kick went off the crossbar, ricocheted away and was cleared by Aquinas.
However, the Vikings never were able to get that third goal and Aquinas held on to advance.
“We made some changes and slowed them up in the second half,” said Dempsey. “I’m happy with how we finished, but we can’t win when we play like we did the first 20 minutes of the match.”