One bounce is all it takes at this time of year to either extend your season or have it end all together.
A pair of late game-changing bounces went in favor of No. 4 Hamilton Township and not with No. 8 Jonathan Alder, as the visiting Pioneers fell 1-0 in a Division II Central District semifinal Tuesday night.
Locked in a scoreless tie, most of the second half was played in the Hamilton Township end of the field. Alder continued to apply pressure but just couldn’t get any clean shots on goals. The team had chances and runs but could never get off any clean shots on goal.
It’s best chance came with 23:30 to play. Alder had possession in front of the Rangers net but a shot bounced immediately in front of the Rangers keeper and over his head. As he scrambled back the bounce carried the ball over the crossbar and out of play.
At the other end, the Rangers got their chance and made the most of it. A corner kick with just under 8:00 to play went through the boy and ultimately off the head of a Rangers player and into the back of the net. The goal happened so fast Alder coach David Lanka was unsure of exactly what happened.
“Honestly I didn’t see it,” Lanka said. “It seemed like it kind of got lost in the shuffle. It flicked through, it was one of those fluke things, it wasn’t a direct header that went in. I don’t know if someone lost their mark or not, it’s one of those things where they had a couple chances in the game and we did too, they put one in and we didn’t.”
After the goal the Pioneers (12-5-1) applied even more pressure but they were unable to score the equalizer.
“I think we had control of the match for the first 30 minutes,” Lanka said. “We had them back on their heels, we just seemed to try and be too fine in that final third. Trying to make that perfect pass and thread it through the middle. Their defense is really good through the middle. I don’t know if we had a really good shot on goal, I don’t think we did, we were trying to be too precise about it when we should be just letting it rip.”
With the win Hamilton Township advances to a D-II championship game for the first time in school history. For Lanka he has to say good-bye to a talented senior class and a team that he said was a joy to coach.
“I’m extremely proud because our boys left it all on the field,” he said. “It simply wasn’t in the stars for us. The 2016 varsity team is one of my favorite teams I’ve ever coached for so many reasons, but the number one reason was the seniors. These 10 seniors had phenomenal careers on and off the pitch and I can’t wait to see the good things they have in store for the future.
“Even though it doesn’t feel like it now, soccer is just a part of life. My biggest hope is the guys walk away from this season with nothing but good memories and a brotherly bond that will keep them tight as a soccer family.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.